The journey of pregnancy is not an easy one by any measure. An expectant mother, however, endures everything for the precious moment when she’ll get to hold her baby in her arms. A soon-to-be mom might also start visualizing how her baby will look at that moment. But when the baby finally arrives, she’ll be caught completely unawares. Covered in blood, a cheesy vernix caseosa, and a tad bluish tint, a newborn will look nothing like the rosy baby pictures that we are often fed. To be fair to the little ones, what more can we expect from someone who has lived in a sac of fluid, darkness and cramped space for 9 months! Not to forget the extremely narrow birth canal that they had to pass through.
All these might leave your baby with strange-looking features for a while. Most of them, as the doctors might tell you, will not be a cause of concern. However, you might become worried if you notice your baby’s swollen genitalia.
Swollen Genitalia In Newborns
Both female and male infants can have swollen genitalia after birth. There might be several reasons for this such as exposure to maternal and fetal hormones inside the womb, birth-trauma-related swelling or bruising to the genitalia, and the natural development of the genitalia.
In the female infants, the labia majora, which is the outer lip of the vaginal area, might appear puffed up soon after birth. The skin of the labia may be wrinkled or smooth. At times, a tiny pink tissue might protrude between the labia. This is known as hymenal tag and nothing to worry about. This eventually recedes inside the labia as the baby’s genitals develop and grow.
Sometimes, newborn baby girls might have a slight vaginal discharge consisting of mucus or even blood. This is, again, due to the effect of the maternal hormone – estrogen, that might get passed into the baby’s uterus from the mother. This may last for a few days and is completely normal (1). In case it does not stop even after a week, do consult a doctor.
Male infants are often born with a swollen scrotum. It is the sack that houses the testicles. This is due to the condition known as hydrocele where fluid accumulates in the scrotum and is common among newborns. This usually disappears by the time your baby is 3 or 6 months of age. However, if the swelling appears to last more than that, you’ll need to consult the doctor. Also, if the swelling comes and goes during the 3-6 months phase, even then you’ll need to check with the doctor. In this case, it might be an inguinal hernia, which occurs in the groin area of the male infants. It may require a surgical correction (2).
What Parents Can Do
Despite the concern, here’s what parents can do to be sure that their baby is fine:
- Be patient enough to let your baby settle into the new environment and let a few days pass for this.
- Make yourself aware of the conditions like hydrocele, if not during pregnancy, then during post-natal doctor visits.
- Keep an eye on your baby’s behavior. Crying often might be normal. But if your baby looks restless or in pain, isn’t feeding well, or looks dull and lethargic, seek a pediatrician consultation immediately.
It is understandable when parents become concerned when they see even a slight bit of abnormality in their babies. But you need to keep in mind a lot of things before jumping to any conclusion. How your baby comes out looking the way he/she does depends a lot on the type of delivery or the accompanying complications. Not only the genitalia, but your baby’s facial features and the shape of the head might also look quite different. Even your genes play a huge role in this. However, given some time, you’ll soon notice that everything is perfectly fine with your baby. For any doubts that might still occur in your mind, you can always reach out to your doctor for consultation and reassurance.