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What is circumcision?
Circumcision is a procedure that removes the skin that covers the tip of the penis, called the “foreskin” Circumcision is usually done when a boy is between 1 and 10 days old. In the United States, circumcision is common. In other countries, fewer boys are circumcised. Circumcision is a common tradition in some religions. It is a highly emotive subject. However, the American Association of Paediatrics has recently revised their opinion, and now on balance find that the benefits outweigh the risks, although not enough to recommend routine newborn circumcision. They suggest that parents should make their own decision, but that the procedure should be available and covered by health insurance.

Circumcision photos

Picture A shows a boy who has not been circumcised.
Picture B shows a boy who has been circumcised.

Should I have my baby boy circumcised?

There is no easy answer. Circumcision has some benefits. But it also has risks. Your doctor won’t tell you what to do. In the end, you will have to decide for yourself what is right for your family.

What are the benefits of circumcision?

Circumcised boys seem to have slightly lower rates of:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Swelling of the opening at the tip of the penis, sometimes requiring emergency circumcision.

Circumcised men seem to have slightly lower rates of:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Swelling of the opening at the tip of the penis, again sometimes requiring emergency circumcision.
  • Penis cancer
  • HIV and other infections that you catch during sex
  • Cervical cancer in the women they have sex with

Even so, in Australia, the risks of these problems are small — even in boys and men who have not been circumcised. Plus, boys and men who are not circumcised can reduce these extra risks by:

  • Cleaning their penises well
  • Using condoms during sex

What are the risks of circumcision?

Risks include:

  • Bleeding or infection from the surgery
  • Damage to the penis
  • A chance that the doctor will cut off too much or not enough of the foreskin

Only about 1 out of every 500 circumcisions leads to problems. These are usually minor, and easily treated.

How is circumcision done in baby boys?

First, the baby gets an injection of local anaesthetic into the base of the penis so he won’t feel pain. Next, I clean the baby’s penis well with antiseptic. Then the I use a special instrument to cut off the foreskin. Finally, I wrap a gauze bandage around the baby’s penis.

If you wish to have a medical (non-ritual) circumcision performed on your son, I am happy to perform this before he is 4 weeks old. It is most convenient to do this while you are still in hospital, although Frances Perry House will no longer allow this – the reasons for this are not clear. Circumcisions on Jewish babies are performed by a specially trained person called a mohel, who may also be a doctor, although not necessarily. If you have your baby circumcised, I will give you instructions on how to care for him after the surgery. It is important that you follow those instructions carefully.