What is a Micropenis and Do I Have One?

How small is smaller than average?

Do you have a micropenis?. Getty Images Credit: Thomas Barwick

A micropenis, also known as a microphallus, is a penis that is 2.5 standard deviations below the mean (average) for the age and race of the child. This definition translates to a stretched penis length of less than 1.9 cm (3/4 inch) at birth. Statistically, micropenises occur in just 0.6 percent of the population.

There are many reasons why the penis may not develop.

Because of the complexity of fetal development, things can and do go wrong. The development process of the sex organs is not immune to these risks.

Who Should You Talk To About Your Child's Micropenis?

Advice and treatment options should be discussed immediately with a medical team made up of pediatricians, urologists, endocrinologists, geneticists, and radiologists. Changes in the way the micropenis is treated by medical experts mean it is worth getting more than one opinion.

What Causes a Micropenis?

A micropenis comes into being during fetal development, as the chromosomes and hormones in your body interact with each other. A micropenis can often be due to inadequate testosterone during the second and third trimester of fetal growth.

There may also be a genetic cause. Although there is no particular gene that causes the micropenis, there are a number of associated syndromes. Among these is androgen insensitivity, in addition to chromosomal abnormalities such as Klinefelter’s Syndrome, Turner’s Syndrome, or Down’s Syndrome.

Is There a Treatment for the Micropenis?

There are a number of treatments available for the micropenis, including:

Psychological counseling and support for the family and child should also be an integral part of a good medical treatment program.

People within the intersex community feel strongly that reassignment should only happen when the child is old enough to make an informed choice for themselves. Also, there are those who go on to live long, happy lives despite their micropenis. Do your homework before deciding to make a drastic, irreversible change on behalf of your child.

Cultural and social issues of maleness and the penis

The range of things that can go wrong in the external genitalia and the way the penis may look and function, is an area bound up with images of maleness (or femaleness). The penis is so central to sexuality and sexual satisfaction that it has even influenced medical treatment. Since the mid-1950s and until quite recently, a child with a micropenis would be surgically realigned to a female and hormones given to enhance that change.

Many would argue that the decision was underpinned by the idea that was culturally and socially led, that a man must have a ‘normal’ penis size to be a man. Size really did seem to matter.

The medical establishment has responded to the changing attitudes on gender and sex, social and cultural issues, increased genetic information and medical advances, research and from information from relevant pressure and support groups.

 Treatment options are no longer as straightforward as they used to be. Society does expect male or female. If a child waits until it is old enough to make a decision there is obviously the potential for confusion, upset, teasing and bullying. A great deal of thoughtful and emotional support will be required

Research and Micro Penis

Although research in this complex area is relatively lacking, there have been a few long-term studies that have found that most boys raised as boys have strong male identity. Most end up as sexually active and enjoy sex and satisfy their partners. More comprehensive research is needed to give a clearer picture of people’'s lives who have a micropenis, or who have had treatment decided for them, been assigned gender with or without surgery.