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Circumcision


Topic Overview

What is circumcision?

Male circumcision is a surgery to remove the foreskin, a fold of skin that covers and protects the rounded tip of the penis. The foreskin provides sensation and lubrication for the penis. In most cases, circumcision is elective surgery, which means there isn't a medical reason for it. If it is done, circumcision is usually done soon after birth. After the foreskin is removed, it can't be put back on again.

On average in the United States, about 60 out of 100 boys are circumcised, and about 40 out of 100 are not.1 Worldwide, the rate of circumcision is much lower.

See a picture of the penis before and after circumcisionClick here to see an illustration..

There are some cases where circumcision is done for medical reasons. Circumcision may be done in older boys and men to treat problems with the foreskin of the penis (such as phimosis or paraphimosis) or for swelling of the tip of the penis (balanitis).

This topic focuses on the circumcision of newborns.

How will you know if circumcision is right for your son?

Circumcision is not usually medically needed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend circumcision as a routine procedure for newborn males. When making this policy, the AAP looked at the possible benefits, risks, and costs of the procedure.2 Other major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, agree with the AAP policy.

When you make this decision, it may help you to think about your personal and cultural preferences. For example, you may want to consider your religious and family traditions while you weigh the pros and cons of the surgery. It is your decision whether to keep your son's penis natural or have your son circumcised.

What problems can occur if your son is circumcised?

Problems from circumcision are not common. If they occur, they are usually minor. The most common circumcision problems are:

  • Bleeding.
  • Blockage of the opening of the urethra (meatal stenosis).
  • Infection of the circumcision site.
  • Irritation of the exposed tip of the penis.

More serious problems are rare. They include damage to the opening of the urethra, heavy bleeding that requires stitches, severe infection, and scarring.

Who performs circumcisions?

Circumcisions usually are done by a pediatrician, obstetrician, family medicine doctor, surgeon, or urologist. Circumcisions that are performed for religious reasons may be done by others trained in the procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about circumcision:

How it is done:

Ongoing concerns:

Care after circumcision:

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