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Circumcision is a surgical procedure which removes the skin (foreskin) from tip of the penis.

Typically, circumcision is performed by a doctor in the first few days of a baby boy’s life if the baby is in a stable condition.

A variety of health, social and religious reasons help parents decide whether or not they want their baby boy circumcised. Though circumcision is painful, there are pain medications that are safe and effective for your baby. There are more risks associated with circumcision when done later in life, so it’s helpful for parents to decide in advance whether they want this procedure done.

Reasons for Choosing Circumcision

Health Benefits

  • A circumcised penis is typically easier to clean. However, uncircumcised boys can learn to pull back the foreskin to properly clean beneath it.

  • Irritation, inflammation, infection and other penile problems are more common in uncircumcised males.

  • In the first year of life, circumcised infants are less likely to develop urinary tract infections (UTI). Nevertheless, this is only a slightly lower risk of about 1% lower.

  • Uncircumcised men have a higher risk of penile cancer. However, this cancer is rare in both circumcised and uncircumcised men.

  • Circumcision prevents phimosis, a condition that makes foreskin retraction impossible.

  • Studies have shown that circumcision lowers the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, including herpes, human papilloma virus and syphilis.

Social Reasons

  • If your baby’s father is circumcised, you may want to circumcise your baby so he does not feel different.

Religious or Cultural Reasons

  • Some religious groups, such as Jewish and Islamic followers, practice circumcision as part of their religious and ethnic culture.

Reasons for Not Choosing Circumcision

  • Like any surgical procedure, circumcision does carry some risks. However, these complications are rare and often minor. Complications include: improper healing, infection, bleeding and cutting the foreskin too short or too long. In most cases, these complications are easily treatable.
  • Some parents fear that circumcision will affect sex later in life, making the penis less sensitive and decreasing sexual pleasure.
  • Proper genital hygiene in uncircumcised boys can normalize penile health risks such as penile cancer, STIs and infection.
  • Some parents believe that the foreskin is needed to protect the tip of the penis. The tip of the penis could become irritated, leading to urination problems.

Procedure and Care

If you do want your baby boy circumcised, schedule the procedure as soon as possible after birth with a pediatrician, obstetrician or trained religious leader. Speak with your physician about how to care for your son’s penis and be aware of any potential complications.

After circumcision, the tip of the penis may look yellowish or raw. If there is a bandage, it will need to be changed with each diaper to prevent infection. When changing diapers, use petroleum jelly to keep the penis from sticking to the bandage or diaper. The penis should heal between 1 week to 10 days after circumcision.

Potential Complications

Complications after circumcision are very rare, but if you spot any symptoms listed below, call your pediatrician immediately:

  • Yellow discharge continues for more than a week. It is normal to have some yellow coating or discharge around the penis during the first week.
  • Redness around the tip of the penis grows worse after 3 to 5 days.
  • Bleeding will not stop.
  • Within 6 to 8 hours after circumcision, your baby does not urinate normally.

Care for Uncircumcised Penis

If you decide not to have your son circumcised, speak with your pediatrician about how to clean your son’s penis. The foreskin will not fully pull back for several years and should never be forcefully retracted. As your son grows older, you can teach him proper genital hygiene to prevent any penile complications.

There are no right or wrong answers on deciding whether or not to circumcise your baby boy. Ultimately, it is up to parents to decide what is most appropriate for their child. If you are still unsure about which direction to take, consult your pediatrician.

Matthew Gibson, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Regency Pediatrics

Dr. Gibson is a pediatrician in the Omaha area who answers your question about child development and parenting. He chose to specialize in pediatrics, because, "Kids are fun. You get to see them grow, and 'oh my gosh' here's their personality." In working with kids, he gets to be a lifelong learner as he's watching the children grow throughout their lives. He enjoys hearing his patient's stories and learning how he can be the strongest advocate possible for them and to make ...

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