Once you and your doctor have chosen a gender for your baby, you may choose to begin treatment for ambiguous genitalia. The goal of treatment is long-term psychological and social well-being, as well as to enable sexual function and fertility to the greatest extent possible. When to begin treatment depends on your child's specific situation.
Ambiguous genitalia is uncommon and complex, and it may require a team of experts. The team might include a pediatrician, neonatologist, pediatric urologist, pediatric general surgeon, endocrinologist, geneticist, and psychologist or social worker.
Hormone medications may help correct or compensate for the hormonal imbalance. 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 reduce the size of the tissue. Other children may take hormones around the time they would normally experience puberty.
In children with ambiguous genitalia, surgery may be used to:
- Preserve normal sexual function
- Create genitals that appear more typical
The timing of surgery will depend on your child's specific situation. Some 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 may 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 normalize appearance and make erections possible. Surgery to reposition the testes into the scrotum may be required.
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.
Children with ambiguous genitalia require ongoing medical care and monitoring for complications, such as cancer screenings, into adulthood.