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Labial Adhesions 101: A girls guide to understanding sticky lips

April 7, 2024

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Labial adhesions, also known as labial agglutination, occur when the labia minora (inner vaginal lips) stick together, forming a thin or thick membrane that partially or completely covers the vaginal opening. This condition predominantly affects girls between the ages of 3 months and 6 years and can present a variety of symptoms, from none at all to discomfort and issues with urination. This guide is designed to provide detailed information to parents and caregivers to aid in understanding, identifying, and managing labial adhesions in children.

Understanding Labial Adhesions

Definition and Overview

Labial adhesions are defined as the partial or complete fusion of the labia minora. This medical condition is most commonly observed in prepubescent girls and is rarely seen in adolescent girls and postmenopausal women due to changes in estrogen levels. The adhesion can cover a small portion of the vaginal opening or, in more severe cases, the entire opening.


While exact prevalence rates are difficult to pinpoint due to underreporting, labial adhesions are considered a common gynecological occurrence in young girls. The condition is most often identified incidentally during routine pediatric examinations.

Key Facts

  • Age Group Affected: The condition primarily affects girls aged between 3 months and 6 years.
  • Causes: The adhesions are typically caused by low levels of estrogen which lead to decreased lubrication, combined with inflammation or irritation.
  • Treatment Options: Treatment generally involves topical application of a prescription estrogen cream, although mild cases may resolve without intervention.

Detailed Examination of Causes

Hormonal Influences

The primary underlying factor in the development of labial adhesions is the low level of estrogen in prepubertal girls, which results in decreased vulvar lubrication. This hormonal environment makes the vulvar skin susceptible to sticking and fusion.

External Factors

Several external factors can contribute to the development of labial adhesions:

  • Irritation: Caused by diaper use, poor hygiene, or irritants such as soap and bubble baths.
  • Inflammation: From urinary tract infections or skin conditions such as eczema.
  • Physical Trauma: Minor injuries to the genital area, often from falls or straddle injuries.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Identifying Symptoms

Many girls with labial adhesions exhibit no symptoms, making incidental diagnosis common during routine checks. However, symptoms can occur, particularly if the adhesions are extensive:

  • Discomfort or Pain: Especially noticeable during physical activities or while urinating.
  • Urinary Problems: Including difficulty urinating, a weak urine stream, or recurrent urinary tract infections.

Diagnostic Procedures

Diagnosis of labial adhesions is typically straightforward and involves a visual examination by a pediatrician or pediatric gynecologist. The clinician will look for the characteristic “bridging” across the vaginal opening and may note a shiny, thin line of tissue where the labia have adhered.

Treatment Strategies

Conservative Management

In many cases, especially where the child is asymptomatic, a “watchful waiting” approach may be adopted. This involves regular monitoring to see if the adhesions resolve on their own as estrogen levels naturally increase with age.

Active Intervention

For symptomatic cases, or when the adhesion covers a significant part of the vaginal opening, treatment may be necessary:

  • Estrogen Cream: The application of a topical estrogen cream is the most common treatment. It helps to soften and separate the adhesions gradually.
  • Emollients: In less severe cases or post-treatment, non-hormonal emollients like Vaseline® or A & D ointment® can be used to prevent re-adhesion.

Application Method

It is crucial that the cream is applied correctly to maximize its effectiveness and minimize side effects. Parents should be instructed by their healthcare provider on the proper technique, which typically involves applying a small amount of cream to the affected area once or twice daily.

Safety and Side Effects

Topical estrogen is considered safe for this use, with minimal systemic absorption. However, parents should be aware of potential side effects, such as localized skin reactions or, rarely, systemic effects like premature breast development or vaginal bleeding. These effects are reversible upon cessation of treatment.

Preventing Recurrence

After successful treatment, maintaining separation of the labia is important to prevent re-adhesion. Recommendations include:

  • Regular Bathing: Ensuring the genital area is clean and free from irritants.
  • Proper Drying: Gently patting the area dry after bathing to avoid moisture buildup, which can promote adhesion.
  • Application of Emollients: Applying a thin layer of an emollient like petroleum jelly can help maintain lubrication and prevent the labia from sticking together again.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is treatment always necessary for labial adhesions? No, treatment is not always required, especially for mild adhesions without symptoms. Many adhesions will resolve naturally with the onset of puberty.

How long does it take for treatment to work? The duration of treatment varies depending on the extent of the adhesions and the individual response to therapy. Some adhesions may resolve within a few weeks, while others may take longer.


Labial adhesions can be a concerning finding for parents, but with proper guidance and care, they are generally manageable and resolve with minimal intervention. It is important for parents to follow up regularly with their child’s healthcare provider and to adhere strictly to any treatment regimen prescribed to ensure the best possible outcome for their child.

This comprehensive guide should serve as a valuable resource for parents dealing with labial adhesions, providing them with the necessary information to understand, manage, and prevent this condition effectively.


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