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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