Labial Adhesions in Baby Girls

Written by Mandy on August 13th, 2012

Activism, Holistic Health, Intactivism
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A silent moment in black and white

When our first child was born, I was an informed parent. There was no way I was letting any doctor (or anyone else) retract his perfect, intact penis. At birth, and for quite a while after (sometimes until puberty), the foreskin is adhered to the glans of the penis. This is a way for the body to protect itself, and the foreskin should not be forcably retracted. I knew that many doctors are still unaware about how to handle intact penises, and I was prepared to protect my child.

However, throughout my life and three children, I had not heard about labial adhesions. It was during my fourth pregnancy that I finally read about labial adhesions in baby girls. Just as the foreskin is adhered to the glans in little boys, there are times when the inner labia of baby girls adheres, blocking the opening to the vagina, either partially or completely. One would think that in a country where intact girls are the norm, doctors would know how to handle something like this. However, I began to read stories about doctors recommending gentle pressure against the adhesion, using Q-Tips, vaseline (petroleum) products, and even the use of estrogen creams on baby girls. Usually, as this generally reoccurs in girls who have labial adhesions which are forcibly separated, the estrogen use became cyclical until puberty. I was appalled.

So, I dug further. I couldn’t believe that something that is apparently quite common in girls and seemed to correspond with a similar phenomenon in intact boys, did not serve some purpose. Surface reading will tell you that labial adhesions occur in relation to some type of irritation. Digging deeper in the medical journals I discovered that, just as with boys, separating labial adhesions is not a recommended treatment. The use of estrogen cream is not recommended. Placing petroleum products on an infant’s genitals is not recommended. The general consensus of those who have conducted research on this subject is that labial adhesions in little girls are a naturally occurring phenomenon, generally in relation to some irritant as the body’s way to protect itself. Parents should keep an eye on it and gently wipe well at diaper changes, but otherwise it should be left alone unless there is a problem.

Relieved to know that my gut instinct was right, I happily went on with my pregnancy and later gave birth to our fourth child, our second daughter. Fast forward about 3-4 months, and I noticed a labial adhesion. Glad that I had read about these before her birth, I kept an eye on it and continued to do so as the labial adhesion increased in size. While I now knew labial adhesions were perfectly normal, I was a bit nervous about the fact that it continued to grow longer. I also couldn’t determine what the irritant might be. We used gentle products, avoided soaps, didn’t give her bubble baths, and changed her diaper immediately after she voided. So, I hit the research again.

That was when I came across some more research that linked labial adhesions with food allergies. Everything clicked into place. We were (and are) in the midst of dealing with allergies – including a lot of food allergies – in our family. Our youngest child had the most immediate and observable reactions to various foods. It made sense that her body was protecting itself. So, we continued to take a wait and see approach.

The adhesions continued, stopping when they reached a certain point, and stayed for a while. I continued keeping an eye on it during diaper changes. Then, one day as I was folding laundry and she was having some naked time (a joke to anyone who knows this child and how she can strip off all clothes and diaper in about half a second), I glanced over to check on her and saw that she was doing some self-exploration, and that the labial adhesion was gone. It had served as protection for as long as she needed it and gone away when it was no longer needed. We didn’t try to force it to open, causing trauma, and so the labial adhesion hasn’t returned.

Our bodies are wondrous. They generally know what to do, if we only listen. Informing ourselves of what is normal (or a variation of normal), and searching out responsible, knowledgeable medical care when there is a true need, allows us to make informed choices for our families.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice. Neither the author, nor Natural Parents Network, are medical doctors and do not assume any responsibility for medical decisions made by parents. This article is written for educational purposes only. The author and Natural Parents Network actively encourage all parents to do their own research and make informed choices about their family’s medical care.

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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with your health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.

About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

28 Responses to Labial Adhesions in Baby Girls

  1. Melissa P  

    Thank you for sharing! We deal with food allergies too, though to date no labial adhesions in my 2 girls and no issues w my intact son. This info well help TONS of people!

    • ellie

      Glad to have read this . My daughter now 14 months was also born with Vaginal adhesion although I was unaware of this as I just thought she had a tiny vagina (she is my first child) . I also noticed a lot of self examination and noticed over the course of a week her vagina began to open .

  2. Rebekah  

    I am so thoroughly impressed with this article. While I’ve heard of labial adhesions and the “treatments” (which never seemed quite right to me) I have never heard of it being semi-normal and the body’s way of protecting itself. Amazing!! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this wonderful, valuable information.

  3. alison

    Just came across this article and I am feeling alot better ! I just started to notice over the past two weeks or so that my 5 month old was getting a labial adhesion…I had heard of it before but had always heard everyone talking about using premarin (which I would never use ) and all sorts of different methods or reopening the vagina…my little girls is pretty much closed but I can still see her clitoris so i’m hoping thats a good thing??? I really want to do nothing but am slightly nervous of her getting uti’s and such…i did have a friend who used flax oil since it has the plant derived estrogen and it worked on her daughter…i’m trying to figure out the cause or trigger..i mostly use warm washclothes to wipe her and on the occasion we are out i have used pampers unscented..but im completely switching to cloth wipes now..either way i think that the estrogen levels dropping and possibly just sleeping too long at night with a wet diaper could have triggered it..if you have any links to the research you found that has more about this please post them ! thanks !!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Claire

    My baby is dealing with adhesions too! The pedi wants me to use the Premarin…absolutely not! I’d love to hear about the link to food allergies…any more info. would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks Claire

  5. Tasha Parker

    I agree with most of what your saying. My daughter is 2 and has labial adhesions. I have refused any estrogen on her bc the side effects are awful. It is now to the point where surgery is nessessary as they are completely blocking her urine from coming out. She has a pin prick hole. Leaving it alone was the worst thing I could have done. It’s genetic in our family.

  6. April Hunt

    What type of food allergies did you ever conclude that could be contributing. We just took our daughter back to the doctor yesterday because she is almost completely closed up. They gave us premarin and I’ve put it on her twice but after reading some of the things I’ve found I’m very undecided and leery about it. I’ve been trying to research and read about it and most of the articles are all several years old. This was one of the few things that was actually written THIS year. We are supposed to go see our urologist since the ped thinks they are more experts at the problem. We have also dealt with some eczema issues and have wondered if it was allergy related as well. Thanks for any help!

    • Sierra Lyn Summerville

      Hey, Ditto on everything you’ve said. My baby girl just turned two last week. We are avoiding the casein protein found in milk and also avoiding eggs due to her sensitivities. Used the premarin once last night. Unsure about what to do. Help! No obstruction of pee but vaginal opening is all the way closed.

  7. Mandy @ Living Peacefully with Children

    Our family is dealing with gluten, dairy, soy, some corn, and various other allergies. Right now we are mainly just working on getting the top allergens out of our diet (with varying success based on how stressed out the rest of life is), but we have cut other things out before. My daughter who had the labial adhesions used to have an extreme reaction to citris, so neither of us ate that for quite a while. She seems to tolerate citris fine, now. For our family, there seems to be a strong gut flora element to our food allergies.

  8. Erica

    My daughter (3.5 now) has been having these adhesions since around age 1.5 & her pediatrician & a urologist both suggested the estrogen cream & pulling. It hurts her & takes about 3wks for it to go away when using the cream. If I dnt use it she has issues controlling her bladder. Using it, however, makes me feel as if I am violating her. I hate giving her estrogen too. She does have allergies & is on medicine for allergies/asthma & sometimes needs a steroid to get rid of colds which turn into bronchitis. I know part is seasonal but have wondered recently if perhaps she may be allergic to some food also, perhaps milk/dairy? Any thoughts?

  9. Jennifer

    Mandy, Can you please elaborate on the food allergy link? And how labial adhesion is protecting the body?

    This was discovered yesterday at my baby’s 2-month appointment; doctor said to leave it alone and will keep an eye on it. I’m a quite alarmed by it, and am checking it now at every diaper change. To me, it looks dry and irritated and it seems like I should be putting some type of lubrication on it. Recommendations?

    She is exclusively breastfed and I figured out that she is sensitive to eggs and dairy, so I have eliminated those items, and she is doing better, but will her labia go back to normal? I do not want a q-tip method and I do not want to use estrogen cream. Help!!

  10. Leah

    Thank you so much for posting! At my dd’s 9 month well visit, we were told she had a labial adhesion and were prescribed the estrogen cream. As soon as we left the office, I began frantically researching more natural alternatives, because I decided I was not putting that cream anywhere on my little. I came across this site, and a few others that really helped!
    I picked up some Calendula gel to try on her adhesion. I applied it with a q-tip after each diaper change. I also stopped using the Earth’s best wipes on her lady parts (only used on her bottom when she had a b.m. , and started using a washcloth soaked in water, and made sure I wiped her area spotless! I kept her in the chlorine-free Earth’s Best disposable diapers. We also only use all-natural baby products in the bath (Lemongrass Spa).
    After about a week, I noticed a slight difference! The area where the adhesion was was thinning! After about two weeks, it thinned out tremendously! We are only two weeks in, so I am awaiting the final results!

  11. Jennifer

    Too bad the author doesn’t follow up here…

    Anyway, I think I figured out the food allergy connection – there is more pooping and it is probably more acidic, so it causes irritation. I spoke to my SIL who is a general practitioner, and she said the labial adhesion is caused by diaper/BM irritation, so there you go! She suggested I stop using wipes and switch to clothe diapers. I still use wipes to clean up BM, and then I rinse baby under running water afterwards, then apply an ointment like Aquaphor to keep area lubricated and protected (we have way too many allergies to use natural stuff like coconut oil, which I am allergic to and won’t use on my children). I also give her some diaper-free time. Her adhesion cleared up within a week!

  12. mel

    My youngest daughter has labial adhesions, but hers is causing another set of health problems, as is the permarin cream they have prescribed to her. The adhesions themselves are causing reflux of her ureter which is causing dystosis of her kidneys and the cream has caused her to have cysts on her ovaries. I’d be interested in reading the article about allergies causing it because at this point I have no idea what to do. The paediatric gynecologist that we saw seemed to think i was a horrible mother for not wanting to use premarin anymore but why would i want to use a hormone cream on my one year old that has so many warnings right on the label? Especially since she now has cysts on her ovaries? But on the other hand i feel horrible for not using it because of her dystosis. I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. Our only other option is separating it manually but since she is only 1 and it’s the second time it’s happened I really dont feel like putting her through that several times if it keeps happening.

    • Jennifer

      I’m so sorry to hear that, Mel :( We had our 4 month appointment last week and I asked dr. about the cream’s side effects, he said she could get little boobs, but that sounds minimal compared to cysts. How did you find out she had them? Poor little girl!! He told me that girls grow out of this problem when they reach adolescence and are producing the hormones on their own. That’s a long time to deal with this… I hope there’s another way to help our babies! I thought my methods above helped her improve, but it seems to come and go.

  13. Sierra Summerville

    Calendula gel and flaxseed oil sound worth a try. Also using only plain water fir washing her vagina. As long as her pee is not obstructed I think we can wait a while (until she’s 3 at least) since she just turned 2 she may start producing estrogen to open up. I think it closed as a way of protecting her as she liked to play in our sandbox at home with no bottoms on ;)

  14. Tahamina

    My 4 months daughter has diagnosed with labial adhesion during her 4 months dr. visit. then her pediatrician prescribed premarin. After coming home, I started doing homework about it and decided not to use premarin as it has lot of side effects. After reading all of your comments made me come up with a list which really helping me now to treat labial adhesion:

    1) If possible keep her diaper free
    2) only night time …use chlorine free diaper but change it every two to 3 hours
    3) Apply Vaseline with q-tips while cleaning.
    4) Clean her area with only water after poo poo/pee pee and wipe it using soft cloth i.e. No chemical wipes.
    5) Give her shower in a bathtub for at least 10 mins every day only with water.

    So, after following all the step for last 11 or 12 days, now I can see it’s opening up. I am really happy now. Thanks for all your valuable comments which made me help for not using premarin.

  15. cassie

    I just found out the name labial fusion today. My daughter is 10.5months & she was born with it fused yet nobody told me anything about it other than they would gradually open on their own. She was prescribed the premarin cream even after I asked the Dr if there was anything else I could use without the hormones so I’m really glad I found this….

  16. Kristy Jones

    My daughter just turned 4 so she has been out of diapers for over 2 years has been allergy tested and has shown no signs of allergies and was just diagnosed for the first time with labial adhesion. we used the cream for a week and it cleared up and now a month later its back. The reading I have done has told me to use the cream for a week and then continue to put a lubricant such as ky or vaseline on it for up to a year(because she has got it a second time) to prevent it from happening again. It has fully closed up her vagina and it is blocking her urithra so she is now having problems emptying her bladder and peeing very frequently, she had to go for an ultrasound to make sure she never had bladder distension which is a very scary side effect of not treating the adhesion. so just be careful and weight your options because to me the side effects the premarin wasnt as scary as the side effects of bladder distention. not to scare anyone but if they cannot fully empty there bladder and it becomes distended it can lead to problems like kidney failure or bad infections from the urine building up.

    • jennifer

      Thank you for your honesty in using the cream vs. the risk of worse bladder problems. It is frustrating when nothing else works except the cream, and feeling like I’m a bad mother for using it. I’ve tried EVERYTHING and took her to a naturopath several times. She’s allergic to wheat and eggs, so I’ve eliminated that from my (breastfeeding) and her diet, and while that worked for 9 months, she is starting to fuse again! My naturopath is expensive and recommends the cream anyway, so rather than going back, I am using the cream.

  17. megan b

    My pedi noticed my 10 month old’s labial adhesion and prescribed an estrogen cream. Of course I didn’t even pick it up and just started being more vigilant about changing wet diapers, using cloth wipes instead of regular ones and putting coconut oil on her at every diaper change. In four days it looked better. Unfortunately my washer died so I had to go back to conventional ones temporarily and the adhesion got a little worse but she’s not having any issues. I read that flax oil as a diaper cream can be effective because it has phytoestrogens. Please consider this before putting estrogen cream on your babies :)

  18. carla

    You mention that you found research connecting LA with food allergies. I’ve been looking but haven’t found any. Can you elaborate please?! Thank you!

  19. Sierra Summerville

    I finally bought the $200 Premarin cream. Waited a month or so before using it on my 2.5 year old. Used it for 2 weeks in the morning and it worked! No noticeable side effects and has not closed since. It has been months and everything is A-OK!

  20. jennifer

    For those of you wondering about the food allergy connection, we figured it out. My naturopath tested my daughter at 5 months and she is allergic to wheat and eggs. After elimination of the allergens, probiotics, herbal supplements and premarian cream for 1 week, she unfused and remained unfused for nearly 9 months. So when you have an intolerance, it essentially creates irritating waste product, which causes irritation/rash to the labia. Because the skin is so thin, it fuses together as it heals, which is why it is so important to keep the area lubricated. Before we knew about the allergens, she had very loose BMs, was red all along her diaper area, and even had anal fissures, which the pediatrician attributed to “hard pushing,” but actually it was actually the irritating waste product. Anyway, she started fusing again, so I need to go back to figure out if something in her diet is bothering her….

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