By Josie Glausiusz|Monday, October 01, 2001

Between one in 2,000 and one in 10,000 babies are born with genitalia that seem neither male nor female, or both. Surgeons typically operate on such infants by age 1 and assign them to the female sex, a procedure that has become controversial (See Discover, January 2000). A recent study amplifies the concerns. Gynecologist Sarah Creighton at University College London Hospitals surveyed 44 adolescents who had undergone feminizing genital surgery in infancy and found that almost half were dissatisfied with the results. Forty-three required further treatment to use tampons or have intercourse, or for cosmetic reasons. Of the 26 whose parents were told their children would need only one operation, 23 underwent repeated surgery. "Parents want their children to look like everyone else's," says Creighton, but she advises delaying surgery until adolescence. "Then the girl can be involved in the decision, and she'd be less likely to need repeated surgery."

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