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The Circumcision Decision

If you give birth to a boy, you will be asked if you'd like him circumcised. This is a matter to be considered carefully before the baby is born, while you have time to think about it and discuss it with your care provider and pediatrician.

At birth, boys have skin that covers the end of the penis, called foreskin. Circumcision is the surgical removal of this foreskin, exposing the tip of the penis. It is usually done in the first few days of life before the baby leaves the hospital. A baby must be stable and healthy to be circumcised.

It Is Your Decision

The American Academy of Pediatrics considers circumcision a choice for parents to make. Some parents choose circumcision for religious or cultural reasons. It is important to consider the pros and cons, how the surgery is performed and the potential complications.

Not all insurance companies pay for the procedure. If you plan to circumcise your son, you should contact your insurance provider for information about coverage.

Medical Reasons Parents Might Choose Circumcision

Research suggests that there may be some medical benefits to circumcision, including:

  • A slightly lower risk of urinary tract infection (UTI). A circumcised boy has about one in 1,000 chance of getting a UTI in the first year of life. A baby who is not circumcised has a one in 100 chance of getting a UTI in the first year of life.
  • A slightly lower risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.
  • A lower risk of cancer of the penis. However, this is very rare in both circumcised and uncircumcised men.
  • Prevention of foreskin infections.
  • Prevention of phimosis, a condition in which it is impossible to pull back the foreskin.

Medical Reasons Parents Might Choose Not to Circumcise

  • Risks of circumcision surgery, although rare, include bleeding, infection and injury to the penis or urethra.
  • The foreskin protects the tip of the penis. When the foreskin is removed, the tip may become irritated and cause the opening of the penis to become too small. This can cause urination problems that may need to be corrected by an operation.
  • The foreskin has more nerve endings than the glans, or sensitive tip of the penis, and its removal decreases sensitivity to touch.
  • Almost all uncircumcised boys can be taught proper hygiene that can lower the chance of getting infections, cancer of the penis and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Procedure

Circumcision is usually performed before your baby goes home from the hospital. Like all surgery, circumcision is painful. To relieve pain, anesthetic is given to numb the area. About one hour before the procedure, a numbing cream is placed on your baby's penis.

Right before the procedure, the doctor injects a local anesthetic at the base of the penis. The penis and foreskin are cleaned. A clamp is attached to the penis and the foreskin is removed by scalpel. The procedure takes just a few minutes. You can be with your baby during the operation if you choose.

Recovery

A nurse or doctor will give you directions for caring for your baby after circumcision. Clean the penis as you would with any diaper change. Apply the provided ointment to the penis with each change so that the penis does not stick to the diaper. It takes about one week to 10 days for the penis to fully heal. Call your doctor if you notice any signs of infections such as redness, swelling or foul-swelling drainage.

Caring for an Uncircumcised Penis

A nurse or doctor will give you directions for caring for an uncircumcised penis as part of routine baby care. Wash the outside of the penis with soap and water. Do not attempt to pull back the foreskin. By the time your son is about 3 or 4 years old, the foreskin will begin to pull back and your son can be taught to wash the head of the penis and inside the fold of the foreskin. Pull the foreskin back over the head of the penis after washing.

 

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.

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