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Labial Adhesions

What are labial adhesions?

Labia are folds of skin on the inside and outside of the vagina. A labial adhesion means that the folds of skin stick together. This is most common in girls between 3 months and 6 years old.

What is the cause?

The cause is usually something that has irritated the vaginal area. This may be caused by:

  • Urine or bowel movements that are left in contact with the skin, such as from a diaper that is left on too long, or not cleaning the area well after going to the bathroom
  • Soaps or bubble bath
  • Allergies
  • Sexual abuse (Most girls who have labial adhesions have not been sexually abused, but it is normal for your healthcare provider to ask about abuse.)

What are the symptoms?

If the adhesions are small, there are no symptoms. If the adhesions cover the opening of the urethra (where urine leaves the body), urine may leak when she stands up.

How are they diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history and examine your child. A healthcare provider can usually tell just by looking at your child’s vaginal area if she has adhesions.

How are they treated?

If there are no symptoms, no treatment is needed. When your child’s body starts making estrogen during puberty, the adhesions will go away.

If the adhesions are causing symptoms, your provider may prescribe hormone cream to put on the area where the folds are stuck together. This will help the folds of skin to separate over several weeks. In rare cases, surgery may be needed.

How can I take care of my child?

Clean your child's genital area carefully and let it dry when changing her diapers. If you child is toilet-trained, help her wipe herself after going to the bathroom until she can do it correctly by herself. Avoid exposure to bubble baths or strong soaps.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider:

  • How long it will take your child to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when you should bring your child back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

Written by Robert M. Brayden, MD, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2016-05-11
Last reviewed: 2018-05-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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