Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis.

The Benefits

Circumcision may have health benefits, including:

  • Easier hygiene. Circumcision makes it easy to wash the penis — although it's simple to clean an uncircumcised penis, too.
  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections. The risk of urinary tract infections in the first year is low, but these infections may be up to 10 times as common in uncircumcised baby boys. Severe infections early in life can lead to kidney problems later on. 
  • Prevention of penile problems. Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis may be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis). This can also lead to inflammation of the head of the penis. 
  • Decreased risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it's less common in circumcised men.
  • Decreased risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Safe sexual practices remain essential, but circumcised men may have a slightly lower risk of certain sexually transmitted diseases — including HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The Drawbacks 

Circumcision also has drawbacks, including:
  • Surgical risks. Excessive bleeding and infection are uncommon, but possible. The foreskin may be cut too short or too long or fail to heal properly. If the remaining foreskin reattaches to the end of the penis, minor surgery may be needed to correct it.
  • Pain. Circumcision hurts. Local anesthesia can block nerve sensations during the procedure.

Other Considerations

Circumcision may not be an option if your son has certain medical conditions, such as an abnormality of the penis that requires surgical treatment. In this case, the foreskin may be needed for repair. Circumcision doesn't affect fertility, nor is circumcision thought to enhance or detract from sexual pleasure for men or their partners. After a circumcision, it may be impossible to re-create the appearance of an uncircumcised penis.

Circumcision Care

It usually takes about seven to 10 days for the penis to heal. The tip of the penis may seem raw at first, and you may notice a yellowish mucus or crust. A small amount of bleeding also is common the first day or two.

It's OK to wash the penis as its healing. Change the bandage with each diaper change, and apply a dab of petroleum jelly to the tip of the penis to keep it from sticking to the diaper. If there's a plastic ring instead of a bandage, it will drop off on its own — usually within a week. Once your son's penis heals, wash it with soap and water during each bath. 

Problems after circumcision are rare.
  • Contact doctor if: Urination is not normal within six to eight hours after the circumcision
  • There's persistent bleeding or redness around the tip of the penis
  • There's foul-smelling drainage from the tip of the penis or crusted sores fill with fluid
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