NOT knowing the gender of your newborn can prove traumatic to parents, especially to Suryakanth and Saraswathi Patil (names changed to protect identity). The couple from Bijapur had their third child in January, last year. However, they were shocked when the doctors couldn’t tell the gender of the newborn. “The news depressed us. Our other two children are normal,” said Suryakanth, a farmer.
Despite conducting an ultrasound scanning they were unable to either find an uterus or male genitals. The parents were later referred to a doctor in Pune. Here too, the child underwent several tests but as the uterus could not be detected, the doctor declared the child as male. The parents were happy to hear this and even named their son.
The doctors prescribed hormonal injections for the growth of the child’s male genital organs. There was considerable improvement and the doctor later suggested an operation for a proper urinary passage. However, to facilitate better understanding due to language barrier, the doctor referred them to meet paediatric endocrinologist Dr Shaila Bhattacharyya at Manipal Hospital, Bangalore.
Dr Battacharyya recalls that the parents brought their 18-month-old child, a month ago to correct the urinary passage, which was below the normal penile passage. When karyotyping, a genetic test to check the number of chromosomes, was administered on the child, the baby was found to be a female. To confirm their findings the doctors conducted laparoscopy and found that the baby had an uterus with ovaries on one side and testis on the other side.
Terming the condition as ‘inter sex’, Dr Bhattacharyya observed that the reason the doctors couldn’t find the baby’s uterus was because the child was too small. The parents were shocked to hear that as their ‘son’ had an uterus and ovary, it was better to raise the child as a girl.
After counselling, the parents finally agreed to perform the surgery to remove the solitary testis in the child. The baby was operated a week ago, where the enlarged phallus was also reduced to ensure that the baby looked like a female.
“She can now lead a normal life. During puberty, she may have to undergo a hormone therapy, ensuring that she has all the female traits,” the doctor said.
Paediatric surgeon Dr C N Radhakrishnan, who operated on the child, said such cases were not uncommon.
(Published in Deccan Herald on 5th May, 2010)
“However, parents are hesitant to come out in public fearing social stigma. Moreover, they are ill informed about where to seek the relevant information and treatment,” he said. “We have christened the child as a boy. Now we are not sure how our relatives might accept her,” said Suryakanth.