Deciding about Circumcision

Contact us

Find an OB Provider

See all

To Circumcise or Not? It’s Your Call.

Deciding whether or not to circumcise your baby boy is a personal decision, one that can be difficult to make. Here is more information about it, which may help you decide.

What Is Circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin that covers the head of the penis. This procedure may be influenced by cultural or religious beliefs, and the rate of circumcision varies in different parts of the country and world.

Is It Recommended?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long held a neutral stance on circumcision, although its most recent statement in January of 2013 is as follows:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that circumcision has potential medical benefits and advantages, as well as risks. A recent analysis by the AAP concluded that the medical benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. We recommend that the decision to circumcise is one best made by parents in consultation with their pediatrician, taking into account what is in the best interests of the child, including medical, religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions and personal beliefs.

Your pediatrician (or your obstetrician if he or she would be performing the circumcision) should discuss the benefits and risks of circumcision with you and the forms of analgesia that are available.”
(Note: Analgesia is pain relief without the loss of consciousness.)

Benefits of Circumcision:

  • Prevents phimosis, a condition where the foreskin cannot retract back from the head of the penis at a later age
  • Reduces the incidence of urinary tract infections
  • Reduces the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Reduces the risk of cervical cancer in future female sexual partners
  • Reduces the risk for cancer of the penis, a rare form of cancer (about 10 cases per year per one million American men)

Risks of Circumcision:

As a surgical procedure, it does carry a small amount of risk (ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent) and can include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Injury to the penis or urethra
  • Removal of excess foreskin

How Is a Circumcision Performed?

A trained, experienced provider — such as an obstetrician, urologist, pediatric surgeon or pediatrician — would perform the circumcision using either a special clamp or a device called a Plastibell. It’s a matter of the provider’s preference, as they both have equally good results. Circumcisions are performed on healthy newborns, often within the first two days of life.

Is It Painful?

Yes, we believe that a circumcision is likely painful. But rest assured that local anesthetic will be applied before the circumcision takes place, either as a topical cream or injection. You can also give your baby a small amount of sugar-water through a nipple to help soothe him.

How Do I Care for My Baby Afterward?

You’ll want to watch for bleeding after the first hour or two following the procedure. If it saturates the gauze or keeps bleeding beyond an hour or 90 minutes later, call your baby’s doctor. Once the gauze falls off you’ll need to put a small amount of petroleum jelly on the penis as it heals, to keep it from sticking to the diaper. A thin, yellow film may develop over the end of the penis; this is normal. It usually takes seven to 10 days for the penis to heal completely after a circumcision.

If you notice any of the following, call your baby’s doctor right away:

  • Redness of the surrounding tissue
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Thick, yellow discharge with a foul odor
  • No urination within 12 hours after the circumcision