Undescended Testicles

It is thought that up to 5% of new-born baby boys have at least one undescended testicle. The condition is very common.

The medical term for this condition is cryptorchidism and is when a boy is born with only one or sometimes no testicles in their scrotum. The scrotum is a sac of skin which hangs under the penis and in which the testicles are held in place. Testicles are two oval shaped organs that play a vital part in the male reproductive system. Whilst your baby is inside your womb, his testicles will develop and grow inside his stomach and then sometime after your 28th week of pregnancy, his testicles should move down into his scrotum.  However, this does not always happen and therefore your baby may be born with undescended testicles.

Unfortunately there is no firm evidence why this happens in some boys although it can be common in babies born prematurely. There are also theories that alcohol, smoking and drugs may be the cause. It is also thought that the cause may be genetic.

The condition is not always obvious in baby boys and so many cases are not diagnosed until baby’s six-week check-up when the doctor will check for this condition. Having undescended testicles is painless for your baby.

If your baby is diagnosed with this condition, you doctor will advise that you keep watch for the testicles to descend, for most babies this will happen within the first four months although for some it may not be until nearer the age of one. If they have not descended by this time, your doctor is likely to recommend treatment. It is advisable to agree to treatment because boys with long term undescended testicles are more likely to have fertility problems during adulthood and also have a higher risk of developing testicular cancer in adulthood. Your child may also grow feeling different and suffer with their self-esteem or body image and be upset of how he looks.

If you agree to treatment for your baby, an operation known as an orchidopexy will be carried out. During the operation, your child will be put asleep under a general anaesthetic and the surgeon will look for the testicle using keyhole surgery. The testicles will be checked to ensure they are healthy and fully developed and then the surgeon will move them down into place.

Your doctor will be able to answer any questions you have regarding this condition or operation and will offer you advice and information on where to go for support.

by Jenny, mum to William and James

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