British doctors are becoming “world pioneers” in treating children and adults who are born with ambiguous genitals, it has been reported.
According to The Times, the NHS is the first health service in the world to begin treating intersex babies on the assumption that they should not automatically be operated on.
For years, medical opinion has held that it is best to attempt to assign gender at birth where a child is born with an unclear sex. This often led to surgery and distressing results once the child reaches adulthood.
A recent Scottish study found that ambiguous genitals are far more common than previously thought – up to one in 4,000 babies is born with this condition.
Sarah Creighton, a gynaecologist at University College Hospital, produced the first study which compared children who had undergone surgery to “normalise” them and those who had not.
The study, published in the Lancet, found that those who did not have surgery were faring as well as or better than those who had.
Creighton spoke to The Times about how parents are treated: “We advise parents to say the baby’s poorly, they are awaiting tests. All children are then allocated boy or girl, but much more controversial is: do you proceed to surgery? That is hard to undo.
“We tend to think that surgery is all-powerful and by having surgery you have a cure. These aren’t conditions that you can cure.”
She added: “We are leaders in this field, worldwide, in terms of disclosure to the parents and child, and challenging surgery.”
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