Circumcision is the surgical procedure of cutting away the foreskin of the penis. The foreskin is the ring of tissue that covers the head, or glans, of the penis. Circumcision was originally done as a religious or initiation rite in some cultures and is still part of the religious views of the Muslim and Jewish faiths. The decision today as to whether or not to circumcise a newborn son is usually based on parents’ concerns for hygiene; health risks, traditional or personal views or the potential complications of the surgery. Circumcision for non-religious reasons became common in the U.S. between 1920-1950. About half of all newborn males are circumcised in this country today; far fewer are circumcised in other English-speaking countries. The great majority of the world’s male population is not circumcised.
Hygiene and increased health risks are concerns of many parents. In the uncircumscribed male, a substance called smegma, which is composed of sloughed-off outer skin cells, gathers under the foreskin. If this area is not cleansed properly, it can lead to odor, infection or, possibly, to a greater risk of cancer of the penis or prostate. However, proper cleansing done as part of a daily bathing routine, just as washing the face or ears, will prevent this buildup. If you decide not to have your son circumcised, he should be taught to retract the foreskin and cleanse the area as part of his bathing routine. However, the foreskin may not be completely retractable until after the age of 3.
Circumcision may or may not help prevent urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases, or infections and inflammation of the glans and foreskin. The research is conflicting and this is still being studied. As for cancer prevention, it has been found that circumcised males with poor hygiene tend to suffer higher rates of penile cancer than uncircumcised males with good hygiene practices. Again, research on this question is still being done.
Many parents will choose circumcision based on tradition. They feel it may be important to the son that he looks like his father or older brothers. Others feel circumcision should be performed so that the child will fit in with his peers. Psychological harm to males if different from their fathers has not been proven. With the decreased practice of circumcision today the “locker room” concern may be less of a factor. Personal considerations will vary. Some people believe that circumcision increases fertility, or prevents masturbation; others feel that an uncircumcised penis is more pleasing in appearance or more sensitive and enhances sexual pleasure. Research does not support the claims related to fertility or masturbation. Attractiveness or the enhancement of pleasure is based on personal preference. Complications of the surgery, as with any surgery, are possible and include infections, excessive bleeding, scarring, or injury to the scrotum, penis or urethra. Some studies indicate that 1 of 500 circumcised newborns suffers a side effect of the surgery. Circumcision should be delayed or not done in some cases including with prematurity, distress at birth, abnormalities of the penis, or hemophilia.
Circumcision will only be done with your written consent. After signing informed consent, your son will be gently restrained. A local anesthetic will be used and the area cleansed and the foreskin will be removed with a special instrument. Petroleum jelly will be put on the incision site or the diaper. We will show you how to care for the circumcision site after the procedure is completed.