Navigating the care of a small child’s body isn’t always easy or straightforward, especially if you are not just new to a child’s vagina, but vaginas in general.
There are the main handful of concerns for parents, with each concern typically connected to a certain age group of child. We’ve split this section up into age groups, so it’s easier to find what you need.
Anatomical abnormalities and differences in sexual development – newborns to teenagers
As soon as a baby is born, it may be obvious that the child has differences in sexual development, which are variously called anatomical abnormalities, congenital abnormalities, or more recently, different. That is, different to the typical boy or girl who is born looking more or less the same as other boys and girls.
We’ll use the term ‘differences’, since it encompasses all outcomes without judgement as to whether something is abnormal or not. If anything is clear, it’s that there are a vast range of human bodies, and none is necessarily more normal than any other.
There are some congenital abnormalities that are considered anomalies, discussed further in our section on anatomical abnormalities and differences in sexual development.
Some glitches can occur when a baby is being built in the womb, due to some known and unknown factors. The end result can be flesh where flesh shouldn’t be, or ovaries where there should technically speaking be testes, a vulva that resembles a scrotum, and a clitoris that seems more like a small penis. There is a spectrum of genitalia that ranges from entirely female to entirely male, with every possible combination imaginable in existence.
That could be a penis and vagina, two penises, two uteruses, half a vagina, testes instead of ovaries, and on and on. People who are not phenotypically male or female – that is, people who don’t fit clearly into one category – are known as intersex. There are a lot of intersex people; in fact some numbers put kids born with ambiguous genitalia at as much as one child for every 300-500 live births. That is, for every 400 kids born, at least one of them will have genitals that don’t fit the classic mould.
Then there are the discoveries when a girl doesn’t get her period after about age 15, when it’s revealed that she has blockages (thick hymen, longitudinal or horizontal septum) or is missing some reproductive organs. Thorough investigations will reveal the extent of the differences, and fertility outcomes will be explained.
Common vaginal conditions found in children
Some vaginal conditions in children include labial adhesion (where the labia stick together, fusing, due to the lack of oestrogen in kids), vulvovaginitis and vaginal discharge caused by irritation or infections, and damage caused by accidents, like hitting the middle bar of a bike.
We also cover hymen injuries.
Sexual abuse in children
We also discuss the physical effects of sexual abuse and infections passed on by sexual abuse of children. It’s useful to know what to look out for in children, and have strategies in place to get a child looked at without causing alarm.