Parents of babies born without clearly defined male or female genitals experience a roller-coaster of emotions, including shock, anxiety and the need to protect their child, according to a study in the October issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
UK researchers who spoke to 15 parents found that they were keen to find a sense of harmony between their child's genital ambiguity and the sex they raised them as.
"The parents we spoke to went through a dynamic and evolving process, which included their willingness to engage with professionals" says Dr Caroline Sanders, a Consultant Nurse working in paediatric urology and gynaecology at Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust in Liverpool.
"They had to deal with challenges relating to their lives, emotions and beliefs and one of the mothers, Faye, experienced serious abuse because people thought her daughter was different. At the other end of the scale, Imogene was delighted when a scan showed that her child, who she felt looked like a girl, was female inside."
Dr Sanders teamed up with Professor Bernie Carter and Dr Lynne Goodacre from the University of Central Lancashire to carry out the study, which involved in-depth interviews with ten mothers and five fathers over a period of 18 months. Two of their 11 children six girls and five boys were under four and the remainder were aged five to 11.
All the children had disorders of sex development, which include conditions where the chromosomes, testicles, ovaries or sexual anatomy are not as expected. It's estimated that one in 300 babies are born with concerns about the development of their external genitalia and in one in 5,000 births the baby's sex is unclear despite expert examination.
Parents who took part in the study said the events following their child's birth were "confusing" and "chaotic" and led to bewilderment and loss of orientation. Several parents recalled that some healthcare prof
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