Congratulations on the birth of your baby boy! When you found out you were having a boy, you probably started thinking about the decision regarding circumcision. The decision to have or not have your son circumcised may be a difficult one. You will need to consider the pros and cons of circumcision. Your culture, religion, and personal preferences will also affect your decision.

What is a circumcision?

Boys are born with a covering across the head of the penis (the glans) called the foreskin. During circumcision, the foreskin of the penis is surgically removed, exposing the glans. Circumcision is usually performed in the first two to three weeks.

Making a Circumcision Decision:

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not find sufficient evidence to medically recommend circumcision or argue against it. Despite the possible benefits and risks, circumcision is not essential or detrimental to your son’s health. Typically the decision for a circumcision is usually based on religious beliefs, concerns about hygiene, or other cultural or social reasons. Circumcision is a common procedure in the United States, Canada, and the Middle East.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 65% of all newborn boys (about 1.2 million babies) are circumcised annually in the United States. Circumcision is less commonly performed in Asia, South America, Central America, and most of Europe.

Before making a decision, you should understand how the procedure is performed, what risks are involved, and what the benefits are as well.

How is a circumcision performed?

The procedure takes only about 5 to 10 minutes and will usually be performed in the hospital before you take your baby home. Your baby will be placed in a padded restraint chair and given local anesthesia. A device will be inserted under the foreskin to hold it away, protecting other parts of the penis. The doctor will cut off the foreskin and cover the incision with an antibacterial ointment.

When should the procedure be performed?

Most doctors recommend a circumcision procedure be done within the first few days of life; however, others will recommend you wait two or three weeks.

How is pain controlled during the procedure?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the use of pain relief measures for the procedure. Some types of local anesthesia used to make the procedure less painful include: a topical cream, a nerve block via injection at the base of the penis, and a nerve block via injection under the skin around the penis shaft. Other non-medical techniques that can help reduce the level of stress include securing the child in a padded restraint chair and giving him a sugar-dipped pacifier.

What are the benefits of a circumcision?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of circumcision are not significant enough to recommend circumcision as a routine procedure, and circumcision is not medically necessary. As always it is important to discuss the decision with your doctor.

Circumcision may potentially offer some of the following benefits:

  • Prevention of urinary tract infections in infants
  • Prevention of penile cancer in adult men
  • May reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases

What are the risks of a circumcision?

The risks of circumcision are minimal. Some boys experience bleeding and infection. Irritation can result from friction by the diapers and ammonia in the urine. Application of petroleum jelly can often relieve irritation.

In rare cases, too much skin is removed from the penis, leading to painful erections in adulthood. Opponents of circumcision claim that removal of the foreskin allows for desensitization of the adult glans and reduced sensitivity during sexual intercourse.

When should the doctor be called?

After your son’s circumcision, you will need to contact your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent bleeding
  • Redness around the tip of the penis that gets worse after three days
  • Fever
  • Signs of infection such as the presence of pus-filled blisters or yellowish discharge
  • If your son does not urinate normally within 6 to 8 hours after the circumcision.
  • If the Plastibell device (a device that it used during the procedure) does not fall off within 10-12 hours.

When should a circumcision procedure not be performed?

Your doctor may want to delay the procedure or chose not to perform it at all. Examples of these instances include:

  • If your baby is premature or medically unstable
  • If your baby was born with physical abnormalities of the penis that need to be corrected surgically (because the foreskin may eventually be used as part of a reconstructive operation)
Last Updated: 09/2008

Compiled using information from the following sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics,

Mayo Clinic Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy Harms, Roger W., et al, Part 2.

American Pregnancy Association,

Leave a Reply