To Circumcise Or Not To Circumcise?

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Baby Boy Chews on His Fingers Closeup

In the United States, approximately two-thirds of all newborn boys are circumcised each year. Parents who choose circumcision typically do so based on religious beliefs, concerns about hygiene, or cultural or social reasons, such as the wish to have their son look like other men in the family.

Rodd Stein 2R WEB72

Rodd Stein, MD, FAAP

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we strongly feel that before parents make this important decision for their child, they need to carefully weigh the health benefits, risks, their religious beliefs and their personal preferences. If you have questions or concerns about whether or not to circumcise your child, please come in and talk with us. As well as years of experience in this area, we have information and advice to help you make your decision.

What is circumcision and how soon after birth is it performed?

  1. Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is the tissue covering the head (glans) of the penis. During the 5-10 minute procedure, the foreskin is freed from the head of the penis and the excess foreskin is clipped off. The circumcision area generally heals in 5-7 days.
  2. Circumcision is usually performed on the first or second day after birth. In the Jewish faith, it is performed on the eighth day by a trained mohel.
  3. If you decide to have your son circumcised at the hospital, a physician can perform the procedure before you bring your baby home.
  4. Circumcision becomes more complicated and riskier in older babies, children and men, and usually requires general anesthesia.
  5. Premature babies or those who have special medical concerns may not be circumcised until they’re ready to leave the hospital. Also, babies born with physical abnormalities of the penis that need to be surgically corrected often aren’t circumcised at all because the foreskin may eventually be used as part of a reconstructive operation.

Important health benefits of circumcision

There is abundant evidence that circumcision has many important health benefits for males, regardless of the age at which they are circumcised. We share these here because we feel that knowing these benefits may affect your decision of whether to circumcise your son.

Circumcision has been proven to reduce the risk of:

  1. HIV infection among heterosexual males
  2. syphilis and genital herpes
  3. penile and prostate cancers
  4. urinary tract infections (some of which are serious enough to require hospitalization)
  5. cervical cancer in female sex partners
  6. a circumcised penis is easier to care for and keep clean than an uncircumcised one

Risks of circumcision

Although brief, circumcision is minor surgery, causes the baby pain during and after the procedure and is permanent. There are a few risks associated with circumcision, including:

  1. Pain
  2. Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision
  3. Irritation of the glans
  4. Increased risk of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis)
  5. Risk of injury to the penis

How to care for your baby’s circumcision site

Immediately after circumcision, the tip of the penis is covered with gauze coated with petroleum jelly to keep the wound from sticking to the diaper. After every diaper change, you should gently wipe the penis tip clean with warm water, then re-apply petroleum jelly to prevent sticking. Any irritation or redness of the penis should heal within a few days, but if it increases or if pus-filled blisters form, there may be an infection. If this happens, call your pediatrician immediately.

Questions or concerns? Please come see us.

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we understand that circumcision is a very personal decision. If you would like to talk with us before taking this step, please make an appointment to come in and meet with one of our pediatricians. Whenever you need us, we’re here for you.

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By Rodd Stein, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball