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Circumcision is a surgery to remove the foreskin, a fold of skin that covers and protects the rounded tip of the penis. The foreskin provides sensation and lubrication for the penis. After the foreskin is removed, it can't be put back on again.
If circumcision is done, it's usually done soon after birth. It's sometimes done in older children and adults to treat problems with the foreskin of the penis (such as phimosis or paraphimosis) or inflammation of the tip of the penis (balanitis).
It's up to you whether you have your baby circumcised or not. This decision is often based on personal and cultural preferences. For example, you may want to consider your religious and family traditions.
The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) does not recommend circumcision as a routine procedure for all newborn males, but there may be benefits for some.footnote 1 CPS also says that parents should be the ones to decide what is in the best interest of their child.
Keep in mind that circumcision isn't just done in newborns. It can also be done later in life if your child chooses to have a circumcised penis.
Your doctor may not do circumcision if your baby has a medical condition that makes problems from the surgery more likely. For example, surgery may not be done if your baby is sick or unstable, has a family history of bleeding problems, or was born early and isn't yet able to go home.
Problems from circumcision aren't common. If they occur, they usually are minor. The most common problems are:
More serious problems are rare. They include damage to the opening of the urethra, heavy bleeding that requires stitches, severe infection, and scarring.
Circumcisions usually are done by a doctor such as a pediatrician or urologist. Circumcisions performed for religious reasons are sometimes done by others trained in the procedure. For your baby's safety, be sure the person is well trained, uses sterile techniques, and knows how to manage your baby's pain during and after the surgery.
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Circumcision is usually done by a doctor at a clinic, in the hospital, or at an outpatient surgery centre. During the procedure:
After circumcision, your baby's penis may look red and swollen. It may have petroleum jelly and gauze on it. The gauze will likely come off when your baby urinates. Follow your doctor's directions about whether to put clean gauze back on your baby's penis or to leave the gauze off. If you need to remove gauze from the penis, use warm water to soak the gauze and gently loosen it.
The doctor may have used a Plastibell device to do the circumcision. If so, your baby will have a plastic ring around the head of the penis. The ring should fall off by itself in 10 to 12 days.
A thin, yellow film may form over the area the day after the procedure. This is part of the normal healing process. It should go away in a few days.
Your baby may seem fussy while the area heals. It may hurt for your baby to urinate. This pain often gets better in 3 or 4 days. But it may last for up to 2 weeks.
Even though your baby's penis will likely start to feel better after 3 or 4 days, it may look worse. The penis often starts to look like it's getting better after about 7 to 10 days.
Your child's penis will be checked during routine checkups. But it's important to call your doctor if your baby has problems after circumcision.
Call your doctor now if after circumcision:
If a plastic ring was used for the circumcision, call your doctor if the ring has not fallen off after 10 to 12 days.
Circumcision may reduce the risk of certain infections. Those who have a circumcised penis may be less likely to get:
In the first year of life, UTIs happen less often in babies who are circumcised. But UTIs aren't common.
Some studies done in men have shown that those who are circumcised are a little less likely than those who are uncircumcised to get or spread an STI, including HIV.
All surgical procedures have risks, but problems from circumcision aren't common. If problems occur, they usually are minor and short-term. The most common ones are:
Possible long-term problems include:
Major problems are very rare but can include:
CitationsSorokan ST, et al. (2015). Newborn male circumcision. Paediatrics and Child Health, 20(6): 311–315. http://www.cps.ca/documents/position/circumcision. Accessed September 17, 2015.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
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