What Is Circumcision?
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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.