Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Centre have dispelled a common myth by reporting that vaginal reconstruction should be a matter of choice for most teens or adult women born with a type of inter-sex condition marked by the presence of both female and male genitals.
The gender identity in women born with this inter-sex condition is almost always female.
The study led by Todd Purves, M.D. Ph.D., a urologist at Hopkins Children's stated that women with complete androgen insensitivity are born with relatively shallow vaginas that may or may not require surgical repair and with undescended testes that do require removal.
In the study, 29 women born with the syndrome were analysed to see if they preferred vaginal reconstruction or not.
The analyses found that 38 percent chose to have vaginal surgery.
Comparing those who had surgery with those who did not, researchers found that both groups had similar rates of sexual activity, with 80 percent of those who chose not to have surgery were sexually active, compared to 70 percent of those who had surgery.
"As surgeons, we need to make sure that the parents of babies with this disorder understand that their daughter may not even need vaginal surgery, and if she does, it is a decision that should wait until after adolescence," Purves said.
The team said that if needed or wanted, vaginal surgery should be done after puberty, when physical development is complete and a girl or a woman is mature enough to make a decision.
"It is a common misconception in the general public — and quite often among doctors — that most girls born with this condition should have vaginal reconstruction in order to be sexually active," Purves said.
"Our findings show that, on the contrary, most young women choose not to have the surgery, have vaginal depths that are within normal parameters and can lead active sexual lives," he added.
The study was presented at the American Academy of Paediatrics Conference on October 26.