If you have made the decision to circumcise* your little boy, you might feel a little nervous thinking about both the procedure and looking after your baby, post-circumcision. This article provides you with information about newborn baby boy circumcision.
We will tell you everything- what happens during the procedure, why it is done, aftercare and more.
What is newborn baby boy circumcision?
The foreskin is a piece of skin that covers the tip of the penis — all males have this when they are born.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, in order to expose the tip of the penis, or the glans penis. It usually done within two or three days after birth, although some parents choose to wait until their son is older.
According to Dr Gerald Tan, circumcision “is perhaps the most common surgical procedure performed worldwide, with about 1/3 of the world’s male population being circumcised.”
Why is newborn baby boy circumcision done?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), circumcision occurs at a wide range of ages, with neonatal and child male circumcision being commonly practiced in many countries.
The WHO points out that there are several advantages of circumcising males at a younger versus older age, including a lower risk of complications, faster healing and a lower cost.
Meanwhile, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.”
Sometimes, circumcision is done for religious and/or cultural reasons, for example, among Muslims and Jews who have circumcised their boys for centuries.
Other times, this procedure is done for hygienic or medical reasons.
Smegma is a thick, white discharge that contains dead cells, and can accumulate under the foreskin of uncircumcised boys. If it is not cleaned properly and regularly, the collection of smegma can lead to odour, and more seriously, an infection.
If this kind of infection recurs in an uncircumcised boy, a doctor may recommend that you get your son circumcised to prevent future infections.
However, do keep in mind that the build-up of smegma can be avoided through good hygiene practices, which you can teach your son when he is older.
Some parents may also choose to circumcise their little boy so he does not look different from his father, or other boys in the family — although others prefer to wait until their son is older so he can decide for himself.
Ultimately, circumcising a newborn baby boy is purely an elective procedure, where you decide if your son should be circumcised or not.
However, it is recommended by professional medical bodies like the AAP that you discuss the pros and cons of circumcision with a doctor while you are still pregnant, and then make an informed decision.
You may also discuss with your doctor the type of circumcision procedure he/she will use, as there are several types.
This diagram illustrates the Plastibell technique of circumcision, where a plastic ring is left over the penis, after the procedure. This ring falls off on its own within a week or so.
How is a baby boy circumcised?
A newborn must be in a stable health condition for circumcision to take place. Usually, the procedure is done when your baby is just a few days old.
Here are the steps a doctor will generally follow for newborn baby boy circumcision, according to WebMD:
- The doctor will place the baby on a special, firm table. Velcro straps may be wrapped around his legs and arms to keep him very still.
- The doctor will clean his penis and foreskin.
- Often, the surgical area is numbed with a local anesthetic while your baby is still awake. If your baby is one month or older, general anesthesia may be required.**
- A sterile circumcision clamp is placed over the head of the penis following which, the foreskin is removed using a sterile scalpel or scissors.
- Finally, antiseptic ointment and gauze are put over the cut to stop it from rubbing against your baby’s diaper.
- Sometimes, a special plastic ring is placed over the penis after the procedure. This helps keep the foreskin separated while it’s healing.
The procedure is quick and painless when local anesthesia is used.
You may notice your baby’s groin area, scrotum and penis look reddish brown after the procedure — this is because of the liquid used to clean the skin pre-surgery.
Doctors may monitor your baby for around two to four hours post-surgery. Following which, you can take your baby home.
Some doctors may choose to use the Plastibell technique, which leaves a plastic ring around the baby’s penis after the procedure.
**Do talk to your doctor in advance about anesthesia options for your baby boy.
How to look after your baby boy’s penis after circumcision
You will notice that the tip of your baby’s penis may look raw or even yellowish for up to 10 days post-surgery. This is quite normal.
If there is a plastic ring instead of a bandage on your baby’s penis, this will drop off on its own in five to eight days.
Here are some tips on caring for your baby’s penis until it heals:
- Wash your baby’s penis with warm water every day (avoid soap). Follow it up by changing his diaper often so that the area is clean.
- If you notice slight bleeding, please don’t panic. Just apply gentle pressure to the area with a clean cloth of bandage for around 5-10 minutes.
- If gauze was used, it should come off when your baby urinates. Ask your doctor about whether you should replace with clean gauze once it comes off, or just leave the gauze off altogether.
- Use warm water to soak the gauze, if you need to gently loosen it from your baby’s penis.
- Dab some Vaseline (petroleum jelly) on the circumcised area to stop it from sticking to the diaper.
- Fasten the diaper loosely so there is minimum pressure on the penis, allowing it to heal.
- You’ll notice a thin, yellow film form over the circumcision site. This is normal and will go away in a few days. Do not try to peel off this film.
One of the signs that your baby probably needs immediate medical attention is a shrill, high-pitched cry
When you should call a doctor
It is rare to hear of complications related to a circumcision. But there are risks with every surgery, however minor it is. So it is best to prepare yourself for the worst, nevertheless.
The AAP says the most common complications are minor bleeding and local infection. Your child’s paediatrician can treat both.
Here are the instances when you should call your baby’s doctor immediately:
- Your newborn has a fever of 38ºC or higher.
- The baby has not passed urine within 12 hours following the operation.
- You notice signs of infection on the penis, or around the circumcision site, such as severe swelling or redness; thick, yellow discharge; or a red streak down the shaft of your baby’s penis.
- If the ring placed over the circumcision site has not fallen off on its own within eight day.
- You notice more bleeding than the doctor told you to expect. Generally, a patch of blood on your baby’s diaper or circumcision dressing larger than the size of a S$1 coin is cause for concern.
- Baby is refusing to feed, has a high-pitched cry or is unusually fussy or cranky.
If you are unsure about anything related to your newborn baby boy circumcision and the healing process, call your doctor.
The pros and cons of newborn baby boy circumcision
Research points out some medical benefits to newborn baby boy circumcision, according to the AAP.
If you circumcise your newborn, it reduces the risk for the following conditions:
- Phimosis, a condition in uncircumcised males where the foreskin cannot be pulled back at all
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Foreskin infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Penile cancer
Some parents choose not to circumcise their boys. Here are some of their reasons:
- Surgical risks. Like any surgery, circumcision comes with risks, even though complications are very few and usually minor. Talk to your doctor while you are still pregnant about these potential risks. This way, you have time to make an informed decision.
- Damage to the penis. Although rare, the medic may not be able to cut enough foreskin, or cut it too short.
- Fear of pain. Concerned that their baby will be in pain, some parents opt not to choose circumcision.
- No protection of the tip of the penis. When the foreskin is not there to protect it, this may irritate the tip of the penis. If this happens, it may affect the urinary opening, potentially leading to urination problems.
*Always seek the advice of your own doctor in connection with any health procedure. Especially one that you are considering carrying out on your child.
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