At birth, most boys have skin that completely covers, or almost covers, the end of the penis. Circumcision removes some of this
foreskin so that the tip of the penis (glans) and the opening of the urethra are exposed to air.
Circumcision has been practiced as a religious rite for thousands of years. In the United States, the majority of male babies are circumcised for religious or social reasons.
When is circumcision typically done?
Routine circumcisions typically are performed in the hospital within a few days of birth. When done by an experienced physician, circumcision takes only a few minutes and complications are rare. After consultation with you, local anesthesia (numbing medicine) is provided during the procedure; the doctor should inform you in advance about the type of
anesthesia they recommend.
Potential risks & benefits of circumcision
you talk with your obstetrician or pediatrician early in pregnancy about the pros and cons of circumcision. This can help you decide whether you want to have your baby circumcised.
Studies have concluded that circumcised infants have a slightly lower risk of
urinary tract infections during the first year after birth. Circumcision during the neonatal (newborn) period also provides some protection from penile cancer (a very rare condition, even in uncircumcised men).
Some research also suggests a reduced likelihood of developing
sexually transmitted diseases and
HIV infections in circumcised men, and possibly a reduced risk for
cervical cancer in female partners of circumcised men. However, while there are potential medical benefits, data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.
Circumcision does pose certain
risks, such infection and
bleeding. A small percentage of circumcised boys develop a condition called meatal stenosis, in which the urethral opening gets scarred or narrowed. This can cause deviation of the urinary stream as well as straining to urinate, or in extreme cases, urinary tract infection or inability to urinate. Some boys can develop scarring of the shaft skin to the head of the penis, called a skin bridge, which requires another procedure to fix.
Although the evidence also is clear that infants experience pain with circumcision, there are several safe and effective ways to reduce the pain.
When circumcision should not take place at birth
If the baby is born
prematurely, has an illness at birth, or has
congenital abnormalities or blood problems, they should not be circumcised immediately. For example, if a condition called
hypospadias is present, in which the infant's urinary opening has not formed normally, your doctor will probably recommend that your baby boy
not be circumcised at birth. In fact, circumcision should be performed only on stable, healthy infants.