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Alternative namesPseudo-hermaphroditism; Hermaphrodite; Intersexual
DefinitionHermaphroditism is a term referring to being of both sexes (intersexual).
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsTrue hermaphroditism requires the presence of both ovarian (female) and testicular (male) reproductive tissue and is relatively rare and poorly understood. Pseudo-hermaphroditism is more common. From a medical standpoint, hermaphroditism suggests two factors:
Signs and tests
The family of the infant needs to be informed of the child's condition as early as possible. It is a very sensitive time, requiring compassion and guidance to avoid feelings of guilt, shame, or discomfort.
Early assignment of the sex is important for the emotional well being of the person. In large part, the decision is based on the corrective potential of the ambiguous genitalia, rather than on chromosomal determinants. The initial care should include a team of professionals that include neonatologists and pediatric specialists, endocrinologists, radiologists, urologists, psychologists, and geneticists.
All of these specialists will focus on what is in the best interest of the child and family. Once the decision is made regarding sex, parents should be left with no ambiguity in their minds as to the gender of the child.
Expectations (prognosis)With corrective surgery, the appearance of external genitalia may appear normal. However, childbearing potential will depend on the underlying cause for the aberrant appearance of the genitalia.
Calling your health care providerHermaphroditism will typically be diagnosed while your child is in the hospital. If you notice that your child has unusual appearing or multiple genitalia, call your health care provider.
PreventionPlease see the individual conditions.
Update Date: 1/20/2004John Goldenring, M.D., M.P.H., Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT