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Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond

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Circumcision

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin at the end of the penis. Although there may be some medical benefits, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that all baby boys be circumcised.

Some parents circumcise their sons because of religious, cultural, or social reasons. Other parents decide not to circumcise because it is not medically necessary. The decision is up to you.

If you do not choose circumcision

Reasons not to circumcise include:

  • There are risks of complications from the surgery. Although they are not common, they include bleeding, infection, cutting the foreskin too short or too long, and improper healing.
  • The foreskin protects the tip of the penis. Without it, the tip can become irritated. This can make the opening of the penis too small. In rare cases, surgery is needed to fix this problem.
  • Proper hygiene lowers the chances of getting cancer and infections, including sexually transmitted diseases.

If you choose not to circumcise, your son's penis needs no special care. Simply wash the genital area with soap and water at bath time. Do not force the foreskin back. As he grows, the foreskin will loosen on its own. This can take three or more years.

When your son is older and the foreskin can be pulled back, do that in order to wash the area covered by the foreskin.

If you choose circumcision

Reasons to circumcise include:

  • lower risk of getting a urinary tract infection during the first year of life (This risk is already low.)
  • lower risk of getting cancer of the penis (This is a rare cancer.)
  • slightly lower risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS)
  • prevention of an uncommon condition that makes it impossible to retract (pull back) the foreskin (also known as phimosis)
  • easier genital hygiene. (Boys can be taught proper hygiene.)

Tips

Check with your insurance provider to see if you have any copays for a circumcision.

Baby boys who are circumcised without pain medicine may show discomfort for several hours. They may not resume a normal feeding pattern for 24 hours.

If you choose to circumcise, check with your insurance provider about coverage. Talk with your baby's health care provider about surgery options. You will have to sign a consent form for the surgery.

Ask that your baby get pain medicine. This is what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.

A circumcision is painful. Using a local anesthetic at the time of the surgery is safe and reduces both pain and stress.

red arrow indicating a more linkSee circumcision care for information about how to take care of a circumcised penis.


 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, sixth edition, preg-ahc-90026, ISBN 1-931876-25-8; American Academy of Pediatrics

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 08/22/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts