What to Know If Your Baby Boy Is Born with an Undescended Testicle
When soon-to-be parents imagine the first few minutes with their brand new baby they often imagine themselves counting fingers and toes. Parents of baby boys though may find themselves counting something else.
As a baby boy grows throughout pregnancy, his testicles develop in his tummy. Typically, sometime during the last weeks prior to birth, they drop down and settle in his scrotum where they’ll remain throughout his life. For some babies though, this dropping doesn’t happen prior to birth. Around 4% of full-term boys and 30% of pre-term boys are born with one or both of their testicles undescended.
Checking the placement of a newborns testicles is part of the routine newborn exam so, if a baby does have an undescended testicle, parents will usually find out soon after birth. While the news might be surprising and feel worrisome, the condition is usually not something that will impact their baby’s life in the long term.
Most cases of an undescended testicle resolve on their own within a few weeks. As a baby grows and matures over the first month of life, particularly if he was born before his due date, his body will catch up and his testicle will drop into place. If this doesn’t happen, most doctors take a wait-and-see approach. Of those babies whose testicles don’t drop in the weeks after birth, the majority will drop by the baby’s first birthday.
If a baby reaches their first birthday without experiencing the testicle moving into place in the scrotum, the doctor will likely begin to talk about surgery. While an undescended testicle doesn’t cause any problems for a baby, it can cause problems later in life. If a testicle remains in the belly rather than in the scrotum it will be unlikely to be able to create healthy sperm. It can also lead to an increased risk of testicular cancer and hernia.
Surgery to move a testicle into the scrotum is called Orchiopexy and is usually a low-pain outpatient procedure. Having a child in surgery can be scary for parents but the surgery itself is low risk. Often kids go in for the surgery in the morning, are home by the afternoon and are back in daycare just a day or two later.
If your baby boy is born with an undescended testicle, the most important things to do are keep an open line of communication with your son’s doctor and keep your worries in check. By the time your little one reaches toddlerhood the condition will likely, though nature or surgery, have been resolved!