What are labial adhesions?
When the folds of skin outside the vagina stick together it is called labial adhesions. The folds of skin are called the labia. The labia can get stuck to each other with very thin pieces of tissue called adhesions. Labial adhesions usually occur before puberty and are most common in girls younger than 6 years old. They normally do not cause any symptoms or problems.
What is the cause?
Labial adhesions are usually caused by something that has irritated the vaginal area. Because the labia are so close together, when the irritated area heals, the labia sometimes become temporarily stuck together.
Possible irritants include:
- bowel movements (BMs) (Wiping from back to front instead of from front to back may cause BMs to irritate the area.)
- urine pooling in the area outside the vagina
- soaps or bubble bath
- other unknown causes
How are they treated?
Topical estrogen creams can be applied to the area where the folds are stuck together. Girls respond differently to this treatment. Most girls will need the treatment for up to 8 weeks. When the labia finally separate, bathe, dry, and put petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the area. Put petroleum jelly on the area after every bath for a few months. Even after this treatment, labial adhesions return for many girls. They may need to use estrogen cream again.
How long do they last?
With treatment, the adhesions should break up after several weeks. When girls goes into puberty, labial adhesions break up on their own.
Labial adhesions may sometimes come back. If this happens, treatment should be repeated. The labia may get darker in color, however this fades away with time.
When should I call my child's healthcare provider?
Call during office hours if:
- The adhesions continue to stick together after 8 weeks of estrogen cream therapy.
- You are concerned about your daughter getting a urinary tract infection.
- You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Robert Brayden, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-11-08
Last reviewed: 2010-10-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes
available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical
evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.