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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
Circumcision is a surgical procedure to remove the skin covering the end of the penis, called the foreskin. In many cultures, circumcision is a religious rite or a ceremonial tradition. It is most common in Jewish and Islamic faiths.
In the United States, newborn circumcision is an elective procedure. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that about 64 percent of newborn boys undergo circumcision. However, this number varies among socioeconomic, ethnic, and geographic groups.
Whether or not you have your child circumcised is a deeply personal choice, and deciding if it’s right for your family will require consideration of many factors. In addition to personal, cultural and religious aspects associated with the decision, you may have medical questions as well.
The following are answers the most commonly asked questions regarding circumcision.
If your baby is circumcised, the penis becomes easier to clean for parents (and ultimately for the child), which helps reduce the risk of infection from bacteria.
Other potential benefits include:
Circumcision is quite common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reviewed current trends of newborn circumcision in the US, and the national rate was approximately 60 percent. According to the data, circumcision rates are highest in the Midwest and Northeast and lowest in the West.
Circumcision can be done at any age. Traditionally, the most common time to do it is soon after your baby is born, or within the first month of life. Because the process is painful, a local anesthetic is used to numb the area and the surgery is performed while the baby is still awake.
If the baby is older, we recommend that he be given anesthesia so there is less pain and risk of injury to the penis. As children get older, they become more aware of their sexual organs, so there is more psychological impacts associated with the surgery, and children become fearful.
If your baby has active issues with heart or lung function or a bleeding disorder, circumcision may be unsafe and should be delayed. There are also congenital findings that may require more extensive repair.
Circumcision should be delayed if the opening of the urethra is not at the tip of the penis, the penis is notably curved, or the penis is relatively small. Always consult a pediatrician when weighing whether or not you wish to circumcise your son, or when establishing a timeline for the procedure.
Most newborns are held still or placed into a circumcision brace. The baby is comforted and may receive a local anesthetic (numbing medication) to reduce discomfort. The skin covering the tip of the penis is removed with a protective device, and then gauze with petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment is applied. In older children and adults, the procedure is commonly performed under general anesthesia.
Despite what many people may believe, this is not an extremely painful procedure. If local anesthesia is given, the child will feel pressure and movement but not pain. The child may be briefly upset while he is being held in place. If the circumcision is performed under general anesthesia, he will not experience any pain during the procedure. Once the procedure is completed the child will not have pain with urination since the urethra (urinary tube from the bladder through the penis) is left untouched during circumcision.
Newborns and infants recover very quickly from the procedure, usually within 12 to 24 hours. Young children recover in 1 to 2 days. Older children and young adults recover in 3 to 4 days. After circumcision, there may be temporary skin bruising or mild swelling that can last for several weeks.
Circumcision can be performed at any age. Newborn circumcisions are normally performed in the hospital nursery prior to discharge while the child is awake. When the child is more than three months old, parents should consider having the procedure performed under general anesthesia and wait until he is at least six months of age.
To learn more, download our "Understanding Circumcision" e-book.
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