Majority of females with a life-long experience of CAH and parents do not consider females with CAH to be intersex

J Pediatr Urol. 2021 Apr;17(2):210.e1-210.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpurol.2020.09.009. Epub 2020 Sep 16.


Introduction: To assess opinions of females with CAH, and parents of females with CAH, about designating this population "intersex," particularly in legislation about genital surgery during childhood.

Methods: We conducted a mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) anonymous cross-sectional online survey of females with CAH (46XX, 16+years old) and independently recruited parents of girls with CAH (2019-2020) diagnosed in first year of life from the United States. A multidisciplinary CAH team drafted the survey in collaboration with women with CAH and parents. Fisher's exact test was used to compare female and parent responses. A qualitative thematic approach was used to analyze open-ended answers for emergent categories of reasons why CAH females should or should not be considered as intersex.

Results: Of 57 females with CAH participating (median age: 39 years, 75.5% of ≥25year olds had post-secondary degree), all had classical CAH and 93.0% underwent genital surgery at median 1-2 years old. While 89.5% did not endorse the intersex designation for CAH, the remaining 5.3% did (5.3% provided no answer, Summary Figure). Most CAH females (63.2%) believed CAH females should be considered separately in "any laws banning or allowing surgery of children's genitals" (19.3% disagreed, 17.5% neutral, 0.0% no answer). Most common themes identified by females with CAH not endorsing an intersex designation were: normal female internal organs, sex chromosomes, personal identity, genital appearance, issues with language, hormones, and those endorsing it: genital appearance, community/group experiences, topic complexity. Overall, 132 parents of females with CAH participated (parent/child median ages: 40/11 years, 81.7% of ≥25year olds had post-secondary degree). All children had classical CAH and 78.8% underwent surgery at median <1 year old. While 95.5% of parents did not endorse the intersex designation for CAH, 2.3% did (2.3% no answer), similar to females (p = 0.29). Most parents (81.1%) believed CAH females should be considered separately in legislation (9.1% disagreed, 6.1% neutral, 3.8% no answer), a slightly higher percentage than females (p = 0.01).

Discussion: Echoing previously published disagreement with clinically designating CAH females as intersex, majority of CAH females and parents oppose a legal intersex designation. Differing opinions among females and parents strengthen concern about a one-size-fits-all approach to legislation about childhood genital surgery. Differences in opinions between female and parent responses, while statistically significant, were relatively small.

Conclusion: Majority of females with CAH and parents believe CAH should be excluded from the intersex designation, and should be considered separately in legislation pertaining to childhood genital surgery.

Keywords: Adrenal hyperplasia; Congenital; Differences of sex development; Patient reported outcome measures.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disorders of Sex Development* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parents
  • Urogenital Surgical Procedures