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What is Circumcision: The Risks and Benefits

One of the first decisions you will have to make after having a baby boy is if you want to have him circumcised or not. This is just one decision out of many, but it is one that you should be well educated on before making the decision. Often times, your doctor will expect that you have made your decision before you get to the hospital and that is why you should do your research early.


What is circumcision?


Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis. It is most often an elective procedure. For infants topical or locally injected anesthesia is sometimes used to help reduce pain and psychological stress during the procedure, but for children and adults, general anesthesia is used. When performed in newborns it takes about 5 to 10 minutes, in older children and adults about an hour, and it usually heals in about a week. Circumcision does get riskier as babies, kids, and adults get older.


Does the foreskin serve a purpose?


There are many organs we have that no longer serve a purpose that we can live without such as the appendix and tonsils. The foreskin does serve a purpose, mostly to protect the glans from urine, feces, and infection. With improved hygienic conditions though, you can have the same protection without the foreskin.


What are the risks and benefits of circumcision?



  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections
  • Decreased risk of some sexually transmitted diseases (such as HIV), though it does not eliminate the risk of STDs.
  • Decreased risk of penile cancer in men, and decreased risk of cervical cancer in female sexual partners
  • Prevention of inflammation of the glans, and glans and foreskin
  • Prevention of the inability to retract and replace the foreskin (leading to infection and sometimes inability to urinate)
  • Improved hygiene because removal of the foreskin makes it easier to keep the penis cleaned (if you don’t have your infant circumcised you will have to retract the foreskin to clean under it to prevent infection and teach him how to do it when he starts cleaning himself.)



As with any surgical procedure there are some risks, although the risk is low. It is up to you to decide if the risks outweigh the benefits.

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Risk of infection
  • Temporary irritation of the glans
  • Increased risk of swelling at the opening of the penis
  • Risk of injury to the penis
  • Though it is not an actual risk, it is a con, some parents opt not to get their newborn circumcised because their insurance will not pay for it. Many insurance companies see it as an elective, therefore, unnecessary procedure during an already expensive hospital stay. Check with your insurance company to see if it is covered.


Is it necessary?


This is something that the American Academy of Pediatrics has debated for a while and is why the procedure is an elective procedure. The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that the benefits outweigh the risks, but not so much so that they recommend universal circumcision.


Are there instances when you cannot have your newborn circumcised?


Chances are your newborn will be able to be circumcised by the end of your hospital stay, but sometimes circumcision is delayed because of a medical condition. For example, many premature infants are not circumcised because they have more pressing and important medical conditions to attend to. Some small birth weight infants will not be circumcised due to the small size of the penis. Once your baby has gained some weight he can be circumcised, though he will most likely require general anesthesia at that point. After about 2 months of age your child will require general anesthesia, so depending on your hospital’s policies about using general anesthesia on infants, you may have to wait until your child is at least 6 months of age or go to a different hospital. There are a few other rare instances where your baby may not be able to be circumcised, you will have to talk to your doctor if any of these apply to your baby.


While not necessary, circumcision is a surgical procedure that needs your consent to perform. As with any medical procedure you have the right to decline, but it is important that you know both the benefits and the risks before making the decision.


How do you feel about circumcision? Do you have any additional questions?


Cassie is a wife and mother to one. She is also a pediatric, women’s health, and labor and delivery nurse. After having her daughter she decided to stay at home with her full time while only working as a nurse on the weekends. Even as a nurse she found that she still worried about every little thing, although she knew she shouldn’t. That is when she decided to start her blog, Mommy, RN, to share her knowledge with other parents out there in hopes to ease their worries.

By | 2017-08-27T22:59:37+00:00 March 25th, 2016|Health, Parenting|0 Comments

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