Differences in anatomy of the female reproductive and urinary systems (also called the genitourinary tract) are common, affecting approximately 5 percent of girls. Sometimes, these differences can affect an individual’s health and quality of life.

At the University of Chicago Medicine, our experts have specialized training in surgery to reconstruct the genitourinary tract to restore reproductive and sexual function. The timing of surgical reconstruction depends on the severity of the variation, the impact on quality of life and the individual patient’s readiness for surgery.

What is a Congenital Anomaly?

A congenital anomaly or variation occurs while the fetus is developing in the womb and results in differences in anatomy that can affect the function of the reproductive tract (which includes the internal and external sex organs) or the urinary tract (which includes the bladder, urethra and kidneys).

How Do I Know if I Have a Congenital Anomaly?

Occasionally, congenital anomalies can be diagnosed before birth or identified and treated in infancy. But more commonly, diagnosis and treatment are delayed because symptoms do not appear until adolescence or even later during the reproductive years.

Symptoms of genitourinary anomalies include:

  • Delayed or absent periods
  • Difficulty inserting a tampon
  • Monthly abdominal pain, usually around the time a period would occur
  • Painful intercourse or inability to engage in receptive intercourse
  • Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)

Types of Congenital Anomalies of the Female Genitourinary Tract

Treatments for Congenital Anomalies of the Female Genitourinary Tract

If you are bothered by symptoms of a congenital anomaly, our UChicago Medicine experts offer a variety of surgical and nonsurgical treatment options personalized to your specific needs. Timing of treatment depends on:

  • The severity of the condition
  • The impact on your quality of life
  • Your goals and preferences

Some of the treatments available include:

  • Surgery to correct excess hymenal tissue or a vaginal septum: This can allow for normal menstruation as well as reproductive and sexual function.
  • Surgery to reduce reproductive difficulty (such as miscarriages or preterm birth)
  • Vaginal reconstruction for females born without a vagina: At UChicago Medicine, this is usually performed using a minimally invasive approach. Surgery to create a vagina requires a regimen of postoperative vaginal dilation using tube-shaped devices to keep the vagina open. Patients also can opt for nonsurgical management and use vaginal dilation for the entire process.

Treating Reproductive Issues in Patients with Genitourinary Anomalies

Women with significant variations in the genitourinary tract or those with a history of extensive surgeries for anomalies earlier in life are at risk for developing complications during the reproductive years, including pregnancy and delivery. At UChicago Medicine, our urogynecologic surgeons are familiar with complex genitourinary variations and collaborate with other specialists, such as reproductive endocrinology, urology, pelvic floor physical therapy and sex counselors, to care for these patients.

Treating Pelvic Floor Disorders in Patients with Congenital Anomalies

Pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence are common pelvic floor disorders that can affect patients with congenital genitourinary anomalies at greater rates compared with the general population. While these pelvic floor disorders usually can be managed with a variety of surgical and nonsurgical interventions, women with congenital genitourinary anomalies will require a tailored approach for management. Surgery for these conditions should only be undertaken with a surgeon with the appropriate expertise in congenital genitourinary anomalies as well as pelvic floor disorders. We offer a range of effective nonsurgical and surgical treatments that are personalized to each individual’s needs.

Meet Our Congenital Anomaly Treatment Specialists

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