Congratulations on the birth of your baby girl! And if you’ve never seen what a newborn girl looks like “down there”, you may be in for a tiny shock!
This article takes you through what is normal and what isn’t when it comes to your little girl’s genitals, and gives you tips on how to care for and clean her down there.
At birth: What will you notice?
Dr.Laura Jana, paediatrician and author of Heading Home with Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality, says it’s perfectly normal to see some swelling of your baby girl’s genitals at birth.
In particular, you may notice that the outer lips of the vagina (labia majora) are puffy, while the skin of the labia may be either smooth, or a bit wrinkled. This is normal, as is sometimes seeing a small piece of pink tissue protruding between the labia.
This is known as a hymenal tag, and will eventually disappear into the labia as your little girl’s genitals grow.
It’s also normal to notice some vaginal discharge in your newborn girl that is clear, white or even blood-tinged, says Dr. Jana. This is due to the effect of maternal hormones and will clear up on its own in a few weeks, so scrubbing at it to get rid of it is discouraged.
If, however, this discharge does not clear up in a few weeks, or you notice it smells foul, contact your paediatrician without delay.
You may also notice that the two inner lips of the labia are semi- or completely fused together – so much so that the vaginal area/urethra are covered. This is known as labial adhesion, and you can read more about this condition on page 2 of this article.
Cleaning your baby girl
Your baby girl’s genital area is very delicate, so do clean with care. In the first couple of weeks, many parents choose to wash this area with only clean water and a clean cotton ball.
It’s okay to add a bit of mild, liquid baby cleanser to the water you are using to clean your little one’s genitals. You could also use fragrance-free baby wipes, or a combination of both.
Do check that the liquid cleanser you choose is gentle enough for your little girl’s nappy region by testing it first on a small area of her skin.
Swish the water around, then use a soft cloth or sponge to gently clean her bottom area, remembering the fron to back rule.
Avoid scrubbing when you are cleaning your little one’s genital area and bottom. When bath-time is over, instead of rubbing her dry, pat her gently instead.
Remember: if your little girl has done a poo before bath-time, clean her genitals and bottom before putting her in the bath water.
First, use a bit of the diaper to gently clean away any obvious soiling. The most important thing to keep in mind when changing your little one’s diaper is the front to back rule.
Always wipe her diaper area from front to back, away from her vagina and urethra (the tiny opening through which she pees).
Cleaning your little girl in this manner with assist in preventing bacteria being transferred from her bum to her vagina/ urethra, thus preventing an infection.
Gently pat her diaper area dry and then, if you wish, use a suitable diaper cream before putting a clean diaper on her.
Please read this detailed guide on nappy creams to help you decide what is suitable for your little one.
What to do in the case of a very dirty diaper
During a diaper change, if you notice that poo has got inside your baby girl’s vaginal lips (labia), here’s how you should clean her:
- After washing your hands thoroughly, gently separate your baby’s vaginal lips
- Use a clean, damp cloth, fragrance-free baby wipe or moist cotton wool to gently clean the area from front to back, down the middle.
- Clean each side of her labia with a fresh, clean damp cloth, wet wipe or dampened cotton wool ball.
Note: We know how wriggly little babies can be, so if she will not stay still enough for you to follow the above-described steps, then good old water and mild soap will also do a fabulous job at cleaning her!
On the next page, find out about some common genital problems that may arise in your baby girl, and when you should consult a doctor.
Three common genital problems that may occur in baby girls
1. Inguinal Hernia
What is this?
According to Dr. Victoria Rogers McEvoy, assistant professor of paediatrics at Harvard Medical School, this condition occurs when abdominal tissue, such as a loop of intestine, moves into the open inguinal canal. This causes a painless bulge in your little girl’s groin area that you might notice when you change her diaper.
Dr. McEvoy says if your baby has this condition, she will need minor surgery to close the open passageway in order to avid getting a strangulated hernia — a condition that occurs when a section of the intestine gets stuck in the inguinal canal, blocking blood supply to that portion of the intestine.
If this happens, then the bulge will cause pain, and look swollen and feel hard. In this instance, you should rush your baby to the nearest hospital without delay.
2. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
What is this?
Your baby could get a UTI due to an overgrowth of bacteria in her urinary tract. In baby girls, because the urethra and anus are so closely situated, the likelihood of a UTI is higher if she is not cleaned properly after pooing or peeing.
This is why it is so important to always clean her down there from front to back, to prevent bacteria in her poo migrating to her vagina/urethra.
Often, the only symptom of a UTI is high fever. But sometimes, it may be accompanied by poor feeding, vomiting, odd-smelling urine or unexplained irritability.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your little girl, notify your paediatrician without delay as an untreated UTI can cause kidney damage.
Your baby’s doctor will decide on the best course of treatment, which is usually a course of antibiotics, says Dr. McEvoy.
3. Labial adhesion
What is it?
This is when the folds of skin in front of the vagina fuse together in varying degrees, and may occur due to irritation, such as that caused by a diaper rash, says Dr. Monique Regard, a New York-based pediatric gynecologist. It is also sometimes seen at birth.
Labial adhesions are not usually painful and won’t stop your baby’s urine flow.
The general advice is not to do anything, especially pulling apart the skin of the labia yourself — this is usually a self-resolving issue.
If your little one experiences UTIs or has trouble urinating due to labial adhesion, your paediatrician may prescribe a steroid or estrogen cream, or very rarely, surgery to separate the skin.
Your best course of action is to discuss with the doctor how significant your daughter’s labial adhesion is, and if anything needs to be done about it at all.
WATCH: How to change your newborn girl’s diaper
*Please note that the information presented in this article is a guide only. If you are concerned about your baby’s health and wellbeing in any way, please seek a medical opinion without delay.
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