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Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis. It is typically done on newborns for personal or religious reasons.

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What Is Circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis. It is typically done on a newborn for personal or religious reasons. In older children or adults, several diseases may require circumcision, including balanitis (inflammation of the tip of the penis), phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (when the foreskin is retracted beyond the tip of the penis and cannot be returned to its original position).

In healthy newborns, there is no medical indication for circumcision. There are a number of reasons families may choose to have their son circumcised. One of the most common reasons is religious tradition. The religious laws of both Judaism and Islam require that newborn boys be circumcised. Other reasons include personal choice, aesthetic preference, or the desire of some fathers to have their sons look like them.

Circumcision is primarily a religious procedure in the Jewish and Islamic faiths.

For newborns, there is no medical reason for the procedure.

In Judaism, circumcision is called a brit milah and is typically performed as part of a religious ceremony in a synagogue by a mohel. The procedure is almost always done when the baby boy is 8 days old. However, it is also sometimes performed in a hospital.

In Islamic culture, it is called khitan. In some parts of the Islamic world, the procedure is performed as part of a religious ceremony. In other parts, it is done in a hospital setting. In most Islamic countries, the khitan is performed when the boy is a baby. However, in some, it is done when the boy enters puberty.

Circumcision is typically elective and the subject of heated debate.

Pros and Cons of Circumcision

There are no overwhelming health-related reasons for circumcision to be routinely performed on newborn males. Therefore, it is a decision best left to parents.

Despite rumors to the contrary, circumcision has no effect on a man’s fertility, nor does it affect —negatively or positively — sexual pleasure for either partner.

Here are some of the pros and cons of male circumcision:

Pros of Circumcision

  • decreased risk of urinary tract infections
  • decreased risk of penile cancer
  • decreased risk of sexually transmitted diseases
  • easier genital hygiene

Cons of Circumcision

  • some see circumcision as mutilation to the body
  • there is no life-or-death indication for the procedure
  • rare complications include cutting the foreskin too long or too short, and improper healing, bleeding, or infection

How to Prepare for a Circumcision

Circumcision is often done in a hospital nursery, between one and 10 days after the baby’s birth. In some institutions, pediatricians in the clinic do it after the baby is discharged from the hospital. The option to perform this procedure will be discussed with you, and the risks and benefits should be explained. If you choose to have this procedure performed on your child, you will be asked to sign a consent form.

For adults, the surgery will most likely be performed in a hospital or surgery center on an outpatient basis. This means that you will normally go home the same day.

How a Circumcision Is Performed

During the procedure, your son will lay on his back while anesthesia — via injection or cream — is used to numb the foreskin. A clamp or ring will be attached to the penis and the foreskin will be removed with a small incision. Afterward, the area will be covered with an antibiotic salve and a loose dressing.

If a plastic ring is used for removal of the foreskin, it will be left on the tip of the penis to allow the wound to heal. The ring will fall off on its own within five to seven days of the circumcision. If the ring has not fallen off by two weeks after the procedure, contact your doctor.

Your doctor may also use dissolvable stitches instead of a ring.

After a Circumcision

Healing time for a newborn circumcision is about a week to 10 days. Your son may be a bit cranky as the anesthesia wears off, but some over-the-counter painkillers, such as Tylenol, typically will help him feel better.

It’s normal for the penis to be slightly red or bruised for a few days after the circumcision.

You can wash the penis and should change the dressings with each diaper change. Keep the diaper slightly loose to help the tip of the penis heal.

Call your doctor if your son shows the following symptoms, as these could be signs of problems or infection:

  • abnormal urination within 12 hours of the circumcision
  • foul-smelling drainage
  • persistent bleeding
  • plastic ring doesn’t fall off after two weeks

Recovery in Adults

Aftercare instructions are different for men who receive the procedure as adults. In general, you should be able to return to work and most daily activities after the procedure. Avoid strenuous activities for the first four weeks of your recovery, or until your doctor tells you it’s OK. Walking is the most ideal type of exercise during your recovery.

You should avoid sexual activity for six weeks after the procedure.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for your incision, and they will let you know when you can remove the dressing.

Written by: Brian Krans
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by:
Published: Aug 7, 2012
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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