Diagnosing differences of sex development and planning healthcare involves many specialists. During this uncertain time, parents experience a strong mix of emotions; so, too, may a child with a possible DSD. Families can rely on great sensitivity from everyone on our team for your family’s privacy and our respect for the emotional difficulty of this time. Our psychologist is an integral and knowledgeable part of the team who assists each family from the beginning of the evaluation.
Tests & Exams
Our thorough approach uses physical examination and many types of testing to determine what is going on inside and outside. The process seems complicated because we need to gather a great deal of information. We need to learn about the child’s genetic makeup, how the hormones are working and the exact anatomy of the internal and external genital structures. The information helps families determine the gender that they will raise their child.
During this process, the parents’ presence is very helpful as our specialists examine the child. Parents come to understand their child’s anatomy and become more comfortable with the situation. In addition, we explain the testing that is needed and reassure the family about the amount of blood drawn for the tests. Testing has to be done at specific times and often over several days. The tests are usually these:
- Karyotype test to determine chromosomes
- Hormone tests
- Electrolyte tests such as sodium, potassium and glucose levels
- Radiographic testing (Ultrasound, MRI, genitogram)
For an infant, the series of test and exams help the team, with the child’s parents, to make a gender assignment (as a boy or girl), keep the child healthy and plan long-term care. Our team understands that this is a difficult time for parents to wait for the results of testing. Our goal is to determine results as quickly as possible, but most importantly for this work to be done correctly. Some of the testing may require multiple days or weeks for results.
We require as complete an understanding as possible because this information often gives us clues as to what gender the child will feel like as they grow up. Having all the information for the team and parents is important before assigning a gender to the child.
For children and adolescents, the evaluation often has less urgent medical concerns, but our team respects the family’s concern and anxiety at this time, too. We know that parents want to understand their child’s condition as quickly as possible. We also know that acknowledging an older child’s sensitivity is important. We take care to minimize genital examination.
Our psychologist can be very helpful to parents in explaining matters to children in an age-appropriate, reassuring and loving way. We also provide access to informal and formal peer support connections for the child, parents, other relatives, school personnel and caregivers as desired by the family.