DSD is used by doctors to describe how your child’s body has developed. The first D can stand for Diverse, or Difference, or Disorders. When we use the letters ‘DSD’ we refer to differences of sex development.
DSD happens while an embryo develops into a baby in the womb. The body parts to do with being a boy or a girl are affected by chromosomes that give the body messages about how to develop and by hormones (chemicals) that come from certain tissues in the body.
There are standard ways for girls and boys to develop but not all people grow this way. Some have different sex development.
Some people may wonder why they have never heard of the term 'DSD'. In part this may be because, like many uncommon medical conditions, you are unlikely to hear about it unless it affects someone close to you. It could also be because DSD represent a very mixed group of conditions. Medical people may therefore refer to the name of your child’s specific condition, rather than the more general term 'DSD'.
Some advocacy or activist groups refer to this mixed group of conditions as ‘intersex’ or ‘intersex traits’ or ‘intersexuality’. These terms are not generally used now and many people feel they are inaccurate, but others like to use them.
The original and medical 2006 definition of DSD states that a 'disorder of sex development' is 'a congenital condition in which the development of chromosomal, gonadal or anatomic sex is atypical'. In our dictionary of terms we will explain the meaning for each of these terms – chromosomal, gonadal and anatomic.