Surgically removing the foreskin, i.e., the skin covering the tip of the penis is known as circumcision. It is typically done on newborns, though in some cases older children or adults might also undergo the procedure.
In some families circumcision is done due to religious reasons, though for others it can done due to family tradition, preventive healthcare or personal hygiene.
Circumcision is a cultural or religious ritual in many Jewish and Islamic families. It is also common in certain tribes in Africa and Australia. Sometimes people also undergo the procedure due to family tradition, personal hygine or as preventive healthcare. In some cases, it is recommended for older boys or men for reducing the risk of certain transmitted infections.
Circumcision can have certain health benefits, which include:
- Easier hygiene- Circumcision makes washing the penis quite simple.
- Lower risk of urinary tract infections- In males, the risk of urinary tract infections is low. These infections are however, more common in uncircumcised males.
- Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infections- Generally, circumcised men have a lower risk of certain sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. Still practice of safe sexual practice is important.
- Preventing penile problems- Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis can be hard or even impossible to retract. This might cause inflammation of the foreskin or head of the penis.
- Decreased risk of penile cancer– Although penile cancer is rare, it’s even less common in circumcised men. Plus, cervical cancer is also less common in the female sexual partners of men who undergo circumcision.
However, with proper care of the penis, the risks of not going through circumcision can be avoided.
If a person is suffering from certain blood-clotting disorders, circumcision might not be an option. It is also not recommended for premature babies who are still in need of medical care in the hospital nursery. Babies born with abnormalities in the penis are also not recommended for this procedure.
Circumcision has no effect on fertility or sexual performance.
Newborn circumcision is generally performed in the hospital nursery, usually around ten days after birth.
In the case of newborn circumcision, your son will first need to lie on his back with his arms and legs restrained. Then the penis and its surrounding area is cleansed and an anesthetic is injected into the base of the penis or in some cases, applied to the penis as a cream. A special clamp or plastic ring is then attached to the penis, after which the foreskin is removed.
Afterward, the penis is covered with an ointment, such as petroleum jelly or topical antibiotic and then it is wrapped loosely with gauze. The procedure generally takes around 10 minutes.
Circumcision for older boys and adults is similar. However, general anesthesia might be required for the procedure and it might take longer than needed. The risk of complications might also be greater when the procedure is performed at a later period in life.
After the procedure
Generally, healing of the penis takes around seven to ten days. It is likely that the tip of the penis will be sore at first and the penis may look red, bruised or swollen. You may also notice little yellow fluid on the tip of the penis as well.
If the procedure was performed on your newborn and he is fussy after the anesthetic wears off, then you need to hold him gently and be careful to avoid any pressure on the penis.
As the penis heals, washing it is fine. After the penis heals, you can wash it with soap and water during a shower or both.
In case of adults, it is possible to return to work and daily activities when one feels comfortable. Strenuous activity should be avoided. For the first four weeks of your recovery, you should avoid activities such as jogging, swimming, weight lifting etc.
During the recovery period, walking is generally the best way to exercise. It is also best if you can avoid any kind of sexual activity for six weeks after the procedure.
Though problems after circumcisions are rare, you should let your doctor know if:
- There is no normal urination within 12 hours of the circumcision
- There is foul-smelling drainage from the tip of the penis
- There is persistent bleeding
Bleeding and infection are the most common complication with circumcision. Sometimes there might also be side effects related to anesthesia.
In rare cases, circumcision might also result in foreskin problems. This happens if:
- The foreskin is be cut too short or too long
- The foreskin fails to properly heal
- The remaining foreskin may sometimes reattach to the end of the penis. This can require minor surgical repair.