Healing torn hymens, a service widely advertised at beauty salons in Vietnam, is illegal and contains health risks, according to state medical officials.
Providers of the service claim that they can make hymens look brand new, so new that "your man will never know," for between VND5-8 million (US$240-383) a go, news website VnExpress said in a report Friday.
The operation takes one hour and the hymen will completely heal in four weeks, said a consultant at a spa on Tran Hung Dao Street, Ho Chi Minh City.
A beauty salon in District 1 says on its website that the operation is done by retired cosmetic doctors.
To many families in Vietnam, having a daughter or daughter-in-law that is still a virgin until her marriage is very important.
Some parents even think that their daughters will have no chance of finding a good husband once they lose their virginity, pushing many women to question their own self-worth after having sex before marriage.
It's ironic when many girls have tried to win back the big pride for their family, possibly themselves, with the cheap service.
"For just a little money, you will have your torn hymens fixed," said a District 5 doctor who asked not to be named. "The operation is easier with younger people. People are put under anesthetic and they only feel a little pain after the operation is finished."
But other doctors in HCMC said the service is illegal and often not a healthy thing to do.
Doctor Nguyen Ngoc Thong, director of HCMC Reproduction Health Center, said the service was not a part of "official medicine."
"The sensitive membrane is very difficult to heal. The operation just tries to stretch and pin the hymen to make it stick back, and the final purpose is to make it bleeds when being torn during sex," he said.
Thong said the operation has a high risk of infection, just like other surgeries, and the chance is higher when it is done in secret.
Doctor Nguyen Hoai Nam, head of Medical Competence at the HCMC Health Department, also said healing hymens is not on the list of permitted medical procedures in Vietnam.
"Any place providing the service is violating the law," Nam told VnExpress.
Pham Kim Binh, deputy chief inspector at the department, said a number of the service providers had been fined and asked to stop but most of them just reopened the service secretly.