The Differences of Sex Development Service at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital treats children, teens, and adults with differences of sex development (DSD), also sometimes referred to as intersex conditions.
Our service brings together experts in many different medical disciplines, including pediatric urology, psychology, pediatric endocrinology, genetics, neonatology, radiology, and pediatric surgery. Working as a multidisciplinary team, these experts consult and offer a full range of management options, counseling, and emotional support. This means that patients can receive continuing care and support from infancy into adulthood as necessary.
Parents whose children have been diagnosed with a DSD condition have many questions about how the condition is diagnosed and treated. Our team is always ready to answer any questions you have, so feel free to ask.
What does “differences of sex development” mean?
Differences of sex development, or DSD, is a name for a group of conditions that begin during development before birth and cause atypical development of sex organs or, sometimes, a mismatch between the chromosomal sex and the outward appearance of genitals.
Many times DSDs can result in atypical genitals, leaving it unclear whether the genital organs are female or male. But DSD conditions also affect reproductive organs and structures inside the body, such as the gonads (testes or ovaries), vagina, uterus, and cervix. DSD conditions sometimes also affect the urinary tract.
Some DSD conditions are discovered at birth, while others may be found during childhood or later in life.
What is the treatment for DSD?
Development of the sex organs is a complex process, with many stages, and can be affected by many different conditions. This means that every patient requires an individual treatment plan specific to their diagnosis and may need attention from several kinds of medical experts.
That’s why our multidisciplinary team approach to care is so important. Our specialists consult and collaborate to deliver personalized care for every patient. Your child can be seen by multiple specialists in one place, all during the same visit, and you can more easily participate in shared decision-making about your child’s care.
Is DSD the same as transgender?
No. Sex development is about sexual anatomy — reproductive organs and structures and the chromosomes and hormones that determine how those organs and structures develop in the body. A child who has a DSD condition has characteristics of sexual anatomy that are not typical.
Gender refers to how we identify ourselves as female, male, both, or neither. People who are transgender do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Will DSD affect whether my child will be able to have children?
This will depend on the specific DSD condition. Some conditions have no impact on the child’s fertility. Others may make becoming a parent a less typical process.
Will I need to explain DSD to my child?
With many DSD conditions, a growing child will likely begin to notice differences the condition has caused. Discussing this in an open and age-appropriate way will be one of the many ways you support your child.
Our team includes a child psychologist who will be available beginning with your first visit, providing counseling and support, including assistance with discovering the best ways to discuss DSD with your child.