Circumcision is one of the oldest known surgical procedures in medicine. Today, however, parents are weighing the pros and cons of circumcision before choosing what is best for their son. Many parents are asking questions such as the following: Are there any medical benefits? What will happen if my child isn’t circumcised? Is it painful? This handout answers common questions about circumcision that you might have.


What is circumcision?

At birth, boys have skin that covers the end of the penis, called the foreskin. During a circumcision the foreskin is removed so that the tip of the penis (the glans) and the opening through which the baby urinates (the urethra) are exposed. Only lasting a few minutes, circumcision is usually done by a doctor in the first few days of life. In some Jewish families, a special religious person called a Mohel does the circumcision as part of a religious ceremony called a Bris held on the eighth day of life.


Can any infant boy be circumcised?

Most healthy, full-term infant boys can be circumcised. If your child is premature or has other health problems, ask your pediatrician if circumcision is okay for your child.


What should I expect for my son after circumcision?

After the circumcision, the tip of the penis may seem raw or yellowish. If there is a bandage, it should be soaked with warm water and removed after 48 hours. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) may be used to keep the bandage from sticking. It takes about one week to 10 days for the penis to fully heal with either type of covering.


Are there any problems that can happen after circumcision?

Problems after a circumcision are very rare. However, call your pediatrician right away if: - Your baby does not urinate normally within 4 to 6 hours after the circumcision. - There is persistent bleeding. - There is redness around the tip of the penis that seems to be getting worse after 3 to 5 days. It is normal to have a little yellow discharge or coating around the tip of the penis, but this should not last longer than a week.


Circumcision -- pros and cons

Most boys in the United States today are circumcised; however, it is far less common worldwide. Many parents choose to have their sons circumcised because “all the other men in the family were circumcised” or because they don’t want their son to feel “different.” If you choose not to have your son circumcised, your son may notice as he gets older that his penis looks different than some of the other boys. If your son seems concerned about this, you may need to talk to him about why he is not circumcised.


Reasons many parents choose circumcision

Research studies suggest that there are some good medical reasons why your son should be circumcised. These include: - Circumcision lower’s your son’s chances of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) in the first year of life. - Although a rare condition, cancer of the penis is essentially eliminated in circumcised males. - Research shows that males who are circumcised have a slightly lower risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). - Circumcision eliminates foreskin infections that occur at the peak age of 3 to 5 years. - Circumcision prevents phimosis, a narrow opening that makes it impossible to retract the foreskin at a later age. - Genital hygiene, which is particularly important in unsanitary conditions, may be easier after circumcision. - Women whose sexual partner is uncircumcised have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and a greater risk for cervical cancer.


Reasons many parents choose not to circumcise

There are also good reasons why parents choose NOT to have their son circumcised. Circumcision may be more risky if done later in life, so parents should try to make a decision about circumcision before or soon after their son is born and not wait longer. - As with all kinds of surgery, circumcision has some risks. Although uncommon, complications such as local infection and bleeding can occur as a result of the circumcision. On rare occasions, the foreskin may be cut too short or too long, or the circumcision may heal improperly. Since many parents see circumcision as a cosmetic procedure, they choose not to have their son exposed to these risks. - Many view the foreskin as an important part of the human body that is necessary for the protection of the tip of the penis. If the foreskin is removed, the exposed end of the penis may become irritated and cause the opening of the penis to become too small. This causes difficulty in urination and may need to be surgically corrected. - Many also believe that the removal of the foreskin can desensitize the tip of the penis causing a decrease in sexual pleasure later in life. - Almost all uncircumcised boys can be taught proper hygiene that can lower their chances of getting infections, cancer of the penis, and sexually transmitted diseases.


Is circumcision painful?

Some parents worry about their child feeling pain. Infants who are circumcised without pain medicine (anesthesia) will feel some pain. They may have a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure. They may also cry loudly; however, they usually calm down almost immediately after the surgery.