What Are Disorders of Sexual Development?

Babies who are born with incompletely developed external genitals or with external genitals which do not match their internal organs are said to have disorders of sexual development (DSD). DSD are considered congenital problems (problems present at birth) of development. DSD can have many causes.

What Causes Disorders of Sexual Development?

There are many causes of DSD. Not all causes have yet been found. They can include:

  • Problems with the adrenal glands
  • Problems making various male hormones or the body’s inability to respond to these hormones
  • Genetic problems with the development of the sex glands (either ovary in most girls or testicle in most boys)

What Are the Symptoms of Disorders of Sexual Development?

Babies born with DSD can have the following symptoms:

  • Genitals that can look different at birth. They may look like boys who have a poorly developed or unfinished penis or like girls with a large clitoris. They may also look like typical girls who have a sex gland that turns out to be a testicle.
  • No outside sign of genitals at all.
  • Problems with the adrenal glands. These children could become sick about a week after birth because they cannot make enough important adrenal hormones called cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones control how the body responds to stress and stores salt and water.
  • Other congenital issues with development. There are rarely serious problems in the rest of the body. his can range from kidney problems, brain development problems and problems with development of the arms, legs, hands or feet.

Rev. 7/2019. MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this website. This website is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.