Genital problems refer to all kinds of congenital abnormalities or defects in a baby’s genital tract, that might have occurred during development of the baby in the mother’s womb.
Some common genital tract abnormalities found in boys are:
- Undescended testes or Cryptorchism – in some cases, a baby boy’s one or both testes remain in the pelvic cavity and do not descend, but the testes usually move down within six to twelve months. If the testes do not descend by two years of age, then a surgery is required, because in the long run undescended testes cannot produce sperm.
- Hydrocele – this problem is caused when a baby boy’s inguinal canal fails to close, causing fluid from the abdomen to collect in the scrotal sac. It carries the same risk as hernia and surgery is recommended to drain the collected fluid and close the passageway.
- Penile Adhesions – occur as a complication to circumcision, where raw areas of the cut loose foreskin can stick to the head of the penis causing irritation. They generally get released over time and in some cases a mild steroid cream may be advised for treatment.
- Hypospadias – characterized by formation of abnormal openings in the urethra along the underside of the penis. Can cause a curvature in the penis and can be corrected with surgery within the first two years of life.
Some common genital tract abnormalities found in girls are:
- Labial Adhesions – occur when the folds of skin in front of the vagina can fuse together after the skin becomes raw and irritated possibly due to diaper rash. They generally resolve on their own when oestrogen production starts during puberty.
However, if the baby girl has trouble urinating or frequently gets urinary tract infections, a doctor’s help must be sought.
- Malformations and duplication of genital parts – abnormal development can be observed in oviducts, uterus, and upper vagina. Occurs if certain ducts do not fuse properly during the development of the baby’s genital tract in the mother’s womb. Must be operated upon to avoid problems during puberty or reproduction in the future.
Apart from these sex-specific disorders, there are some genital disorders / occurrences that raise questions on the newborn’s sex:
- Complete androgen insensitivity syndrome – the baby has a male chromosomal pattern but the outward appearance of a female. The vagina is short and there is no uterus. There are testes but no production of sperm. Diagnoses of such cases are late and are often shrouded by social stigma.
- Klinefelter syndrome – under this condition, babies are born with one or two extra sex chromosomes. These babies are always boys (XY chromosomes) but will have XXY and XXXY chromosomes. Diagnosis is often not done until puberty, when symptoms like shrinkage of the testicles, and development of breasts occur.
- Inter-sex – a rare condition where the newborn has sexual characteristics of both genders. Some babies with this condition have both ovaries and testes.
- Turner syndrome – under this condition, babies, always girls, lack one X chromosome. This causes absence of ovaries, short stature, a webbed neck, skeletal deformities, and a broad chest with widely spaced nipples.
Symptoms for most genital problems (barring the ones that deal with sex-identity) include unexplained irritability, poor feeding, or vomiting in children.
Contacting a doctor becomes the need of the hour, as most operations and surgeries can only be conducted on the baby when he or she is small, so as to avoid future complications.