If you notice any unusual changes in your baby’s diaper area, it’s important to pay attention and seek advice. Common genital problems in babies can range from diaper rash to infections, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your little one’s health and well-being.
Dr. Victoria Rogers McEvoy, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, says it’s natural for parents to wonder if everything is okay, given how much time they spend caring for their baby’s private areas during diaper changes and baths. While you should always check with your child’s pediatrician about any concerns, we consulted with experts to learn more about some of the most common genital disorders that can affect infants.
The testicles move from the abdomen into the scrotum in the final weeks leading up to delivery or soon after. Occasionally, however, one or both testicles may not descend, a condition known as “undescended testicles.”
In some situations, the testes may descend, but the inguinal canal, which connects the abdomen and groin, does not entirely close, allowing the testicles to migrate between the abdomen and scrotum alternately. This condition is known as retractile testicles, according to William Reiner, M.D., a professor at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Premature infants are more likely than full-term infants to be born with an undescended testicle.
Dr. Reiner says that in most cases, testicles shift into position within six to twelve months of birth. Your pediatrician may recommend hormone treatment or minor surgery if the symptoms persist.
In some situations, an inguinal canal may develop into an inguinal hernia. Dr. McEvoy explains that abdominal tissue, such as a loop of the intestine, may slide into the orifice, generating a painless bulge in the baby’s groin area during a diaper change. Inguinal hernias can manifest at any age and are more prevalent in men than women.
Dr. McEvoy explains that your child will need minor surgery to repair the open pathway to prevent a strangulated hernia, which occurs when a piece of intestinal material becomes lodged in the canal and cuts off the blood flow to a segment of the intestine. The bulge will be large, firm, and extremely painful if this occurs. Your infant may vomit, wail uncontrollably, refuse to eat, or develop a fever; you should immediately bring them to the emergency room.
A hydrocele is a condition of the inguinal canal that affects only male babies. According to pediatric urologist Steven Tennenbaum, M.D., fluid from the abdomen can accumulate in the scrotal sac when a boy’s inguinal canal fails to shut. It is not unpleasant, although your child’s testicles may appear enlarged.
Hydroceles pose the same danger as hernias. If it has not resolved on its own before the child’s first birthday, doctors may consider surgery to drain the fluid and shut the route.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Bacterial overgrowth in the urinary tract results in a urinary tract infection (UTI). In the first year of life, they are more prevalent in infants with penises, particularly uncircumcised penises that might trap bacteria. Due to the proximity of the urethra and anus in female anatomy, UTIs can also affect infants with vulvae.
Frequently, the only symptom of an infant’s UTI is an inexplicable high temperature. However, you may also observe urine with an unusual odor, unexplained irritation, poor feeding, or vomiting. Notify your pediatrician if this occurs, as untreated UTIs can lead to kidney infections and irreparable damage if left untreated. Dr. McEvoy states that a course of antibiotics (typically ten days) can effectively treat a UTI.
The labia, which are skin folds in front of the vagina, can fuse together. According to Monique Regard, M.D., a pediatric gynecologist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Westchester Medical Center in New York, this fusion can occur when the skin becomes rough and inflamed (perhaps due to a severe diaper rash). Adhesions vary in size, are rarely unpleasant, and do not typically impede urine flow.
In the majority of cases, labial adhesions do not require treatment, and you should not attempt to remove them on your own. They often resolve on their own and will vanish as estrogen production begins to increase during puberty. If your infant has problems peeing or recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in addition to labial adhesions, your pediatrician may offer steroid or estrogen cream on prescription or, in rare situations, surgery to separate the adhesions.
Penile adhesions are a potential circumcision consequence. When bodily tissue is sliced, the edges might adhere to nearby structures. After surgical excision of the foreskin, bare portions of the foreskin can adhere to the penis’s head. It may appear as though the head is covered by a thin film or was never circumcised.
According to Dr. McEvoy, penile adhesions are often painless and dissolve as the penis grows; thus, treatment is rarely necessary. A doctor may give a modest steroid cream for therapy of severe adhesions.