We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Pseudohermaphroditism?

By Christina Whyte
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Pseudohermaphroditism is a condition in which an infant is born with one chromosomal and gonadal sex, but has or develops some of the secondary sexual characteristics of the other sex. It can be distinguished from 'true' hermaphroditism by the presence of only one sex's gonads, either ovaries or testes, whereas in true hermaphrodites both ovarian and testicular tissues are present. The two types of hermaphroditism and other disorders of ambiguous genitalia are now referred to by the umbrella term intersex. This acknowledges that these conditions are more complex than merely being born with the 'wrong' genitals, and that there is wide variability in the physical and psychological presentation of the condition. There is great debate over the management of intersex infants and what treatment, if any, should be performed.

It is particularly important to distinguish between sex and gender when discussing intersexuality. Sex is biologically determined in the chromosomes and genotype of an individual. Gender is much more socially and psychologically determined, and someone's gender may not match the person's sex. People who are intersex may think of themselves as male, as female, or as neither, both, or something in between.

There are two varieties of pseudohermaphroditism: female pseudohermaphroditism, known now as XX intersex, and male pseudohermaphroditism, or XY intersex. People with XX intersex have the chromosomes and ovaries of a female but external genitalia that appear male, such as an enlarged clitoris and fused labia that resemble a scrotum. People with XY intersex have the chromosomes and testes of a male, but external genitalia that appear female, such as a small penis that resembles a clitoris, internal testes and lack of scrotal sac.

People with pseudohermaphroditism can vary widely in physical appearance. Some may reach puberty looking like one sex but then develop the secondary sexual characteristics for the opposite sex, such as breasts or facial hair. Others may have external genitalia that is not clearly male or female. Some individuals may only discover their intersexuality when they are unable to conceive children of their own.

Pseudohermaphroditism may have a variety of causes, and the cause for a particular person may never be determined. An overexposure to the hormones of the opposite chromosomal sex while in utero may cause the genitals to develop abnormally. Some people are insensitive to the hormones of their chromosomal sex, and so can only incorporate the hormones of the opposite sex. Random mutations or damaged or abnormal chromosomes can also cause intersex.

Many individuals born with ambiguous genitalia have had gender assignment surgery as infants or children. In the past and by some doctors currently, gender assignment surgery was recommended very soon after birth for intersex people. Since surgically creating female genitalia is considered to be easier, the majority of intersex infants would be given female genitalia through surgery if the genitals did not look clearly and functionally male. This has caused a lot of problems for people who were assigned a gender that they felt was wrong. Even besides the psychological issues, genital surgery can have serious consequences, such as the inability to experience sexual pleasure.

Intersex children who have not had surgery may also struggle with gender identity and can experience serious social problems, such as bullying and exclusion. Medical professionals vary widely in their surgical recommendations for infants born intersex, but counseling and support is often recommended for families dealing with intersexuality. Deciding whether to have corrective surgery performed or not, and which gender a child should be raised as, is a very difficult decision and should be made by the family with the support of compassionate and capable professionals.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.