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Should Your Baby Boy have a Circumcision?

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Circumcision?

Learn about Circumcision.

Circumcision is when doctors surgically remove a baby boy’s foreskin, the layer of skin covering the head of their penis.

Doctors perform a circumcision on babies either before or after the baby leaves the hospital. The baby needs to be healthy, so if there’s any type of medical condition, doctors may want to postpone the circumcision. It can also be performed when boys get older or become adults. When this is done, though, it may take the boy longer to recover and increase the chance of complications.

Having a circumcision is elective, meaning it’s not a required procedure. Parents have the choice when they want their son circumcised, but the hospital and laws won’t require that it be done. Because of this, your insurance may not cover the procedure, so be sure you call and check on this.

The number of circumcisions has gone down in recent years, though many newborns still have the procedure done in the U.S. It’s not as common in other countries.

Making the choice

Some parents choose to have a circumcision done for hygienic reasons. Smegma can build up under the foreskin when a boy isn’t circumcised. This thick, white discharge contains dead cells, and can lead to infection or odor. A boy who hasn’t been circumcised, though, can learn to wash his penis during bathing to get rid of the smegma.

Circumcision is also a religious practice for some people. Jews and Muslims have made circumcision a practice for boys over a number of centuries.

Other parents may choose to have a circumcision performed so that the child looks like other boys, or his father.

On the other side, some parents do not want to have a circumcision performed. They’re worried about any pain for their baby or worried about the risk of having a surgery.

Still, other parents want their child to make the decision himself when he grows up.

Health Benefits

Circumcised boys may be less likely to have urinary tract infections than other boys, although the risk is low for both groups. Circumcision may also prevent a rare condition called cancer of the penis.

There is some research out there that circumcision decreases the chances of a man getting HIV from a female partner who is infected. It’s also possible that circumcision decreases the chance of a man passing on HIV and other types of sexually transmitted diseases to a female partner. However, there’s not enough research right now to recommend baby boys have circumcision for health reasons.

Risks

There are possible risks with circumcision. These may include scarring, infection and bleeding. There are rare cases, too, that either not enough foreskin is removed, or too much is removed. Sometimes, addition surgeries are needed to correct these types of problems.

Performing circumcision

A circumcision only takes a few minutes to complete. The baby boy is put on a special table and generally, an anesthetic is used to relieve pain. Although there are various surgical techniques used, they will follow these steps:

• Foreskin and penis are cleaned • A Clamp is attached to the foreskin and the foreskin is removed • Afterwards, petroleum jelly and a bandage go over the wound to protect the diaper from rubbing against it

The first time your baby urinates, the bandage will probably come off. Some doctors recommend putting a clean bandage over the area until the penis heals, while others say it’s best to leave the bandage off. Usually, the skin heals within 7-10 days. You may notice a small amount of yellow fluid, and that the tip of the penis is red.

Proper cleaning

To clean off any stool that gets on your baby’s penis, use a mild soap and water. Make sure you’re changing his diaper often enough so that there’s no infection due to the urine and stool. Symptoms of an infection may include swelling, cloudy fluid that forms a crust, and redness that doesn’t go away.

If you don’t want to have a circumcision performed, you’ll need to make sure you’re properly washing your child’s foreskin and penis. Wash the outside of his penis with mild soap and water. Don’t pull back the foreskin. This may not be possible until your child is between ages 3-5.

As your child grows up, teach your son how to wash his penis properly. He needs to pull back the foreskin and clean the area with soap and water. Then, he’ll need to push the foreskin back into place.

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