Back to School at FamilyEducation.com
|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Labial Adhesions

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: My daughter's vaginal opening closes, and I have to use an estrogen based cream to soften the tissues so that it will open back up. Her pediatrician says she develops "vaginal adhesions," and to use Vaseline to keep her open. Is this common? The Vaseline doesn't work. Any other suggestions?

A: The condition that you are describing is called labial adhesions, and it is very common. The labia are the small, inner set of "lips" that surround the vaginal and urethral (where urine comes out) openings. In infants and young girls these labia can stick together, forming a thin membrane that partially covers both openings. It almost never completely covers both openings, and most girls have no problem urinating, and no other symptoms.

Labial adhesions are felt to be caused by mild irritation of the labia, either from diaper rashes, infections, poor hygiene (three- and four-year-old girls are notoriously poor at wiping), or just excessive rubbing. As the irritation heals, the edges of the labia stick together and become fused. If you look closely at it, you can usually see a thin clear line down the middle, which is the thin membrane that has formed.

It's estimated that up to 10 to 20 percent of girls have these labial adhesions at some time in their first six years of life. For most girls, these adhesions resolve on their own in six to twelve months, without any treatment. For girls in whom the adhesion covers a very large area, or who have some difficulty with getting their urine out, estrogen cream is the recommended treatment. Estrogen works because it protects the labia from irritation (labial adhesions don't occur in girls once they have started puberty). The estrogen cream is usually used twice a day for two weeks, then once daily for another week or two. The cream is very safe to use for these short periods of time. It is usually quite successful in separating the adhesion, although occasionally, some girls need to be retreated. Recurrence of the adhesion can occur, so it is recommended that some sort of lubricating ointment like petroleum jelly (Vaseline) be put on the recently separated labia, to prevent them from sticking together again.

You should talk with your pediatrician about whether or not your daughter needs to be treated further, and for how long.

More on: Expert Advice

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Printable Fall Fun To-Do List
Celebrate the cooler weather with this printable checklist of fun fall activities for your whole family.

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

Top 10 Care Package Items for College Students
Show your college student that you love and miss her by mailing a care package full of dorm room essentials and comforting treats. Whether it's her birthday, exam time, or just because, get care package ideas to brighten her day.

Find Today's Newest & Best Children's Books!
Looking for newly released books for your child? Try our new Book Finder tool to search for new books by age, type, and theme, and create reading lists for kids!