Making the Circumcision Decision

If you deliver a baby boy, you’ll be asked early on whether you’d like to have your child circumcised. 

This simple, safe procedure involves the surgical removal of the foreskin that covers the end of the penis. It’s usually done by a doctor within the first few days of a healthy, stable newborn’s life—often in the hospital before you and your son head home (unless you’re having the procedure done a few days later at a religious ceremony by a trained professional, such as a mohel in the Jewish religion). Because circumcision is riskier later in life, it’s safest to have the procedure done in these early days.

A Personal Decision

Many parents want their son circumcised for religious or cultural reasons, so that he looks like other circumcised men in the family, or because a circumcised penis is easier to keep clean. 

Ultimately, it’s your decision; circumcision is not a requirement for your son’s health. There are benefits and some risks (though these are rare and treatable).
 

Pros and Cons

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lists these medical advantages of circumcision, including the prevention of foreskin infections, easier genital hygiene, and a lower risk of:

  • HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections, including genital herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV) and syphilis

  • Urinary tract infections in the first year of life

  • Cancer of the penis (which is very rare anyway)

As with any surgical procedure, circumcision does have some risks (though rare, occurring in 2% or less of cases). Mainly, these involve minor and easily treated bleeding or infection at the surgical site.

Keep in mind, too, that circumcision can be painful for your baby. The AAP  recommends that a local anesthetic be given before the procedure (either a topical cream, which can take up to 40 minutes to take full effect, or injected medicine, which takes effect faster and may last a little longer). Your baby may also be given acetaminophen to help lessen pain during and after the procedure. Ask ahead of time what pain relief will be offered. It will give you peace of mind.

Learn more about circumcision from the AAP.

Caring for Your Child’s Circumcision

If your baby’s penis was bandaged after the circumcision, replace the bandage at each diaper change, using petroleum jelly to keep it from sticking to the skin. If a plastic ring was used instead of a bandage, this should fall off within 5 to 8 days.

Don’t worry if the penis tip appears raw or if you see a yellow discharge in that area for a few days after the circumcision. The penis should be fully healed in a week to 10 days.

Contact your baby’s doctor if:

  • Your baby isn’t peeing normally within 6 to 8 hours after the circumcision.

  • Bleeding at the surgical site does not stop

  • Redness around the penis tip worsens after 3 to 5 days

  • Yellow discharge around the penis tip lasts longer than a week 

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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