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Definition Return to top
Developmental disorders of the vagina and vulva include many different structural problems that occur while the baby is developing in the mother's womb.
Causes Return to top
As the baby develops during the pregnancy, problems may occur in the development of sexual organs. Sometimes males are born with "female" genitals and females have "male" genitals.
See also: Hermaphroditism
Symptoms Return to top
Symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Finding problems with development early is important, especially when the gender is unclear (sexual ambiguity).
An examination of the outside (external) genitals may show:
An examination of the vagina may show:
Treatment Return to top
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
It helps to find the problem while the child is still a newborn. Getting all of these as soon as possible can provide the child with the best outcome:
In the past, most hermaphrodites were raised as males because their outside (external) genitals looked more masculine. However, they can grow breasts, and many get their periods (menstruate). After removing the testicles with surgery, some hermaphrodites can become pregnant and deliver normal children.
Possible Complications Return to top
Complications can occur if the diagnosis is made late or is not correct.
It is possible for a child who has the outside (external) genitals of one gender to have internal sexual organs of the opposite sex. Sometimes, these internal sexual organs are at risk for cancer and must be surgically removed around the time of puberty.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you notice:
Prevention Return to top
There is no current way to prevent this condition.
Getting the right nutrition during pregnancy and avoiding exposure to illness, certain medications, and alcohol are all important for the baby to grow and develop. However, development problems may still occur, even if the mother makes every effort to ensure a healthy pregnancy.Update Date: 2/19/2008 Updated by: Peter Chen, MD, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.