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Male Infant Circumcision

When a boy is born, the head of his penis is covered with a hood of skin called foreskin. Circumcision is a surgical procedure where this foreskin is removed, so the end of the penis is exposed.

Often this surgery is performed within the first two days after birth. After the newborn period, the procedure can be more complicated and painful for the child and usually requires general anesthesia.

Some parents choose to circumcise their son for cultural or religious reasons. Others do it because it is more hygienic and research shows circumcised males are less likely to contact urinary tract infections or other penile or urinary issues in comparison to uncircumcised males. An estimated 55 to 65 percent of all newborn boys are circumcised in the U.S. annually.

Things to Consider

If you are pregnant, you and your partner should begin to discuss circumcision. Even if you end up having a girl, this is still an important decision to make prior to birth.

For you, the choice may be simple because of your family traditions or cultural or religious beliefs. On the other hand, you may be unsure about what you want to do. Your gynecologist can discuss the benefits and risks associated with male infant circumcision.

About the Procedure

Male infant circumcision can be performed in a hospital or outpatient clinic. There are several different methods that can be used and the steps may vary slightly depending on which method of circumcision your gynecologist chooses.

In the past, newborn boys did not receive anesthesia prior to circumcision. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends anesthesia. Several different types may be used, such as a cream, a nerve block given as an injection, or a spine block.

The procedure generally takes 15 to 30 minutes. The penis glans and foreskin are separated. This exposes the ridge that defines the glans of the penis. The area is cleaned and any smegma (a white pasty substance that holds the foreskin and glans together) is removed. The foreskin is placed over the glans again.

A scissors is used to cut the foreskin on the upper side of the penis. A second cut is made on the underside of the penis. Next, the foreskin is cut away around the ridge of the penis. The foreskin edges are pulled back. Blood vessels are tied off. This is done using stitches or with an electrical current that heats the ends of the blood vessels. Stitches are made on the edges of the foreskin. A dressing may or may not be applied. The gynecologist may also prescribe a pain killer post-procedure.

After the Procedure

Generally, it takes 7 to 10 days for a penis to heal after circumcision. Here are some things to keep in mind during this healing period:

  • Keep the area clean as possible and only use warm water, not baby wipes, for cleaning. Soapy water can also be used if needed.
  • Apply a new dressing whenever you change a diaper for the first day or two.
  • After the dressing is no longer needed, put a dab of petroleum jelly on the penis for several days to reduce discomfort from rubbing and sticking to the diaper

You may notice the penis looks swollen, there may be a small amount of blood on your baby’s diaper or you may notice a slight yellow discharge or crust. These things are normal and are part of the healing process.