The first question asked by grandparents after a baby is born is ‘is it a boy or girl’. This is often determined by looking at the genitalia. Intersex is a condition where the sex of the child could not be determined looking at the genitalia.
- What are the causes of intersex?
- How to deal with this at birth?
- Can the appearance be improved by an operation?
What are the causes of intersex?
The causes of intersex are many however it can be simplified as follows
- A Hypervirilised Girl: chromosome is XX but genitals are masculanised due to exposure to male hormones
- Undervirilised Boy: Chromosome is XY but the genitals are not well masculanised due to deficiency or failure of action of male hormones
- Mixture of problems: This can be at various levels; both XX and XY chromosomes or both testicular and ovarian tissues or multiple patterns
How to deal with this at birth?
It is essential to do the tests like chromosomes and harmonal tests soon after the birth to identify the problem. It is also essential not to name or fix gender for the baby before diagnosis. Once the problem is assessed doctors and parents should sit together and decide what is the best sex of rearing for the baby. If the sex is assigned by appearances without proper testing, it becomes socially very difficult to change gender once the child becomes old.