Once you and your doctor have chosen a gender for your baby, you may opt to begin treatment for ambiguous genitalia. The goal of treatment is to ensure sexual function and fertility, as well as long-term psychological and social well-being. When to begin treatment depends on your child's specific situation.
Hormone medications may help correct the hormonal imbalance. In some children, hormones may be administered shortly after birth and may be the only treatment necessary. For example, in a genetic female with a slightly enlarged clitoris caused by a minor to moderate case of congenital adrenal hyperplasia, proper levels of hormones may shrink the tissue close to a normal size. Other children may take hormones around the time they would normally undergo puberty.
In children with ambiguous genitalia, surgery may be used to:
- Preserve normal sexual function
- Create more natural-looking genitals
The timing of surgery for ambiguous genitalia will depend on your child's specific situation. Many doctors prefer to postpone surgery done solely for cosmetic reasons until the person with ambiguous genitalia is mature enough to participate in the decision about gender assignment.
For girls with ambiguous genitalia, the sex organs often work normally despite the ambiguous outward appearance. If a girl's vagina is hidden under her skin, surgery in childhood can help with sexual function later. For boys, surgery to reconstruct an incomplete penis may improve appearance and make erections possible.
Results of surgery are often satisfying, but repeat surgeries may be needed later. Risks include a disappointing cosmetic result or sexual dysfunction, such as an impaired ability to achieve orgasm.
Mar. 16, 2012
Ambiguous genitalia is a rare condition in which an infant's external genitals don't appear to be clearly either male or female. In ambiguous genitalia, a baby's genitals may not be well formed or the baby may have characteristics of both sexes. In a baby with ambiguous genitalia, the external sex organs may not match the internal sex organs.
Ambiguous genitalia isn't a disease. Instead, it is a sign of a condition that affects sexual development.
Ambiguous genitalia is usually obvious at or shortly after birth. Ambiguous genitalia can be very distressing for families. Your medical team will determine the cause of ambiguous genitalia and provide information and counseling that can help guide decisions about the baby's gender.