What You Didn’t Know About Labial Adhesions in Baby Girls

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 forcably 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 1/2 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.

 

Previously posted at Natural Parents Network.

Saving Them the Pain of a Later Circumcision

Photo by Aesop

When it comes to the topic of circumcision, an argument often touted is that the parent wants to save the child from the pain of a possible circumcision later on in life. They then follow this by the fact that they know someone who had to have a circumcision as an adult. They just want to save their child that pain. The logic of that makes me want to scream.

Let’s assume that they actually do know of a person (maybe even two) who did legitimately need a circumcision as an adult, despite the fact that medical evidence shows that circumcisions, except in extremely rare cases, are not done for legitimate medical reasons – i.e. a medical community pushing circumcisions due to lack of knowledge. What about the hundreds of men they know who did not need to be circumcised? Why base a decision on something that happened to such a small group?

Back to the assumption that the person’s son might actually need the procedure sometime later in life, having it done now isn’t saving your child from any pain. In fact, it is causing more pain. An adult male who makes the decision to be circumcised has access to adequate pain medication, which can be altered if he deems that it is not working well enough. An adult male’s foreskin is not still attached to the glans of his penis, unlike an infant’s, which must be ripped away from the glans. An adult male is not sitting in a diaper with urine and feces next to his open wound, increasing chances of infection and pain. And then, of course, is the fact that more children die from complications of circumcision than from either SIDS or car accidents.

Circumcising an infant child does not save him from pain. Will he remember having the procedure done as an infant? Probably not, but that doesn’t lessen the pain any. Given that logic, should we also remove our daughters’ mammary cells as infants to prevent them the memory of a possible mastectomy? Should we surgically remove all appendixes at birth?

Foreskins are Functional

Foreskins are functional. Most parents wouldn’t knowingly cut off a functional part of their infant’s body. In fact, it’s illegal to cut off the majority of infant body parts, excluding foreskins. However, most people aren’t quite aware of the function of the foreskin, assuming that it’s just a piece of skin. What they don’t realize is that piece of skin is there for a reason.

Photo by Yuri Samoilov

The male prepuce, commonly referred to as the foreskin, has a high concentration of blood vessels, nerves, nerve endings, muscle layers, and skin.

Muscle layers protect the urinary tract from contaminants, thereby decreasing urinary tract infections. At the same time, the foreskin covers the glans of the penis, protecting it from abrasion and irritation, and keeping it moist, making it more sensitive to stimulation. The foreskin also contains glands in the skin which work to keep the penis clean. Similarly, there are glands which produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins which protect against infection. The pH of the foreskin also cultivates beneficial bacteria; without beneficial bacteria, men are at a higher risk for UTIs.

The foreskin contains approximately 240 feet of nerves and 20,000 nerve endings. Logically speaking, the loss of such can have a dramatic effect on sexual pleasure later in life. Three feet of veins are included in the foreskin, along with up to 80% of the penis’s skin. Altered blood flow due to scar tissue can affect urinary tract flow and result in more UTIs.

Removal of skin and veins affects erections. When a penis becomes erect, it grows in size due to blood flow. Removal of the foreskin does not allow the erect penis to become fully erect outside the body, effectively shortening the penis and at times causing pain or discomfort for the man. During intercourse, a man’s foreskin allows the penis to move in and out without abrasion, making intercourse much more comfortable and pleasant for his partner.

Foreskins serve many roles. Say no to circumcision and protect a healthy body part.

The Care of Newborn Babies

Newborn babies are wonderful. They are snuggly and tiny, elliciting kisses and cuddles from their parents. Surprisingly enough for such tiny little people, they also are capable of making remarkable messes. Parents gingerly hand over these new little bundles to eagerly awaiting relatives with the warning to watch out for spit up. Many is the person who has had to go change shirts after holding  a baby.

Photo by Nina Matthews

The there are the diaper changes. If you are a parent, you’ve been there. All of my children have managed to pee on me at least once during the early days of changing diapers. The dirty diapers are even worse. Those first few days of meconium diapers have the consistency of tar. My husband once referred to it as toxic sludge. Good luck getting it off your hands without copious amounts of soap and water. Once that is past, those early breastmilk poos begin. The only times we have ever dealt with diaper blow-outs have been in those first few months, when the poo just tends to go everywhere. My husband only changes boy poo diapers. He’ll quietly whisper that “The poo goes everywhere. You’re a girl. You know how to deal with it.”

 The poo does seem to find it’s way everywhere. It’s manageable. You just have to keep wiping and hope that another round isn’t on it’s way in the mean time. Extra towels underneath help. However, for those parents that have chosen to have their male infants circumcised, they also have to deal with bleeding and open wounds. Just as poo goes everywhere, it will also end up on the circumcision wounds.
 
Any open wound is a possible infection site. Because circumcision wounds are located in a diaper which is continually being soiled, infections are quite common, including staph infections with the ever rising rates of staph in hospital settings, where most babies in the States are born. The new immune systems of newborn infants are less equipped to deal with infections. Antibiotics which are often used to treat infections have their own issues, killing good bacteria along the way and often resulting in thrush for the baby and nursing mother.
 
The truth is that any body part can become infected. However, choosing to cause an open wound in an area which is routinely in contact with feces doesn’t seem a prudent decision, especially when the alternative is to not do anything except wipe the area, intact penis included, with a wet wipe.

The Locker Room Argument

One argument often given for routine infant circumcision is the locker room argument. Parents are worried that their child might be teased. After all, everyone else in the locker room will be circumcised, they think. What if their decision is the reason for their son’s teasing?

Photo by Jenni C

There are a few problems with this argument. The first is that the majority of men are intact. Over 80% of the human male population on Earth is intact. While the US’s rates are a bit depressing in comparison, having once dipped as low as 15%, the percentage of intact males in the States is on the rise. As of 2009, US circumcision rates were down to 32.5%, leaving 67.5% of males born in the US intact. That number continues to climb, as more parents learn that there are no medical reasons for the procedure. While the actual distribution of percentages which make up that average vary across the country, chances are very good that your son will not be the only intact male in the locker room.

Secondly, is that the enormity of teasing going on in locker rooms is a myth. How do I, a woman, know this? Well, I have brothers, a husband, brothers-in-law, and friends and I asked them. They all laughed when I asked, claiming that any teasing because of intact status is proposterous. While some guys may check out the competition, so to speak, it’s taboo to be caught doing so and even more so to comment on it. Any attempt to make fun of one for their intact status would immediately be shot down with a quickly asked, “Dude! Why are you checking out my penis?”

Thirdly, and on a lighter note, it’s cosmetic surgery. If you are agreeable to cosmetic surgery for your child to avoid any teasing, where do you stop? What if your daughter is teased for having smaller breasts? Do you rush her off to the plastic surgeon? Later, when she develops more and is teased for having larger breasts, do you go again? When your son inherits Uncle Billy’s ears that stick out, do you help him deal with that until he grows into them or run out and have them tucked? Cosmetic surgery for infants? What’s next? What is that teaching our children?

Informing Mothers on Effects of Circumcision on Breastfeeding

La Leche League, an organization dedicated to providing information and support for breastfeeding mothers and families has historically claimed that their only interest is in providing information to and supporting mothers in regards to breastfeeding. In an effort to reach as many women as possible, they supposedly do not mix causes.

Image from Circumstitions

I can understand the point of not mixing causes, although the statement that they don’t could be argued. I could even agree that the ethical and moral decisions surrounding circumcision should not be discussed in a La Leche League meeting any more than any other morally volatile or personal decisions should be discussed. However, La Leche League’s offical stance took the subject of circumcision even farther. They removed any information about the effects of circumcision on breastfeeding from their book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

I take no issue with the fact that La Leche League does not wish to engage in the moral and ethical issues involved with routine infant circumcision in an attempt not to alienate mothers who may need help with breastfeeding. However, by withholding information pertinent to breastfeeding, the topic at hand, not only do they fail to give women all of the information needed to make informed choices regarding their breastfeeding relationship, but by removing factual information regarding this matter, they are inadvertently supporting circumcision.

Read more and sign the petition to La Leche League regarding this matter here.

Top 10 Reasons to Leave Your Son Intact

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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Photo by Beth

10.  80% of the world’s male population is intact.

9. It is easier to clean an intact infant’s penis than to deal with open wounds in a diaper which is routinely filled with urine and feces.

8. Foreskins are functional, protecting the glans while containing sensitive nerve endings and blood vessels.

7. It is a parent’s duty to protect his/her child. Circumcision is painful.

6. Pain and shock from circumcision disrupt bonding, breastfeeding, and sleep patterns in newborn infants.

5. Complications include infection, abnormal bleeding, removal of excessive amounts of skin, loss of part or all of the glans, urinary issues, and death.

 4. It is illegal in the United States to circumcise a female against her will or who has not reached an age of majority. Circumcising infant males is discriminatory.

3. There is NO medical benefit to routine circumcision. Removal of the foreskin does not prevent STDS. It does not lessen the chance of developing penile cancer.

2. Once done, it cannot be undone.

1. If it isn’t your body, it’s not your decision to make.

Circumcision is a deeply personal decision. Let’s leave the decision to the person who owns the penis. Say NO! to routine infant circumcision.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon March 8 with all the carnival links.)