Disorders of Sexual Differentiation | Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between disorders of sexual differentiation and intersex disorders?

Disorders of sexual differentiation (DSD) used to be called “intersex disorders”. The name was changed to DSD to prevent any confusion or limiting definitions.

Should my child get corrective genital surgery?

After your child is diagnosed with a DSD, you should have a discussion with your family and your child’s doctor about optimal management, including sex assignment. Deciding on a sex assignment depends on the anatomic findings, so it will vary from child to child.

When should I consider treatment?

After an accurate diagnosis is made, parents discusses with your family and your child’s doctor about treatment options. Parents are encouraged to take their time when consideration treatment options and not make any immediate decisions. To avoid gender confusion, it’s best to perform corrective surgery when the child is very young.  At Children’s, our doctors usually perform the reconstructive surgery when a child is about 6 months old, which reduces the risks of anesthesia.

Will my child be able to have children?

Whether or not individuals with DSD are able to have biological children depends on what condition they have. In general, people with DSDs are not fertile or have very low fertility rates.

What’s the difference between gender and sex?

Sex is a biological term that describes someone as being either male or female. Sex refers to sex chromosomes and sex organs.

Gender refers to attitudes, behaviors and personality characteristics that are typically associated with each sex. Gender identity is how a person identifies with masculine or feminine traits. Gender is different from sex because sometimes a person can identify with a gender that is opposite from his or her biological sex.

How can I help my child?

Emotional support and acceptance are the best things parents can offer a child who has DSD. Having a condition that doesn’t fit with social norms can be difficult, and many children with DSD may feel ashamed or become overly focused on the appearance of their genitals. To help your child from feeling stigmatized, talk openly and honestly about his or her medical condition. Encourage your child to voice any questions or concerns and avoid pushing him or her into a certain gender. Peer support and psychosocial counseling is key in helping children and their families come to terms with the diagnosis.