“Congratulations, it’s a boy!” These happy words are heard by parents every day and quickly followed by “Do you want him circumcised?” Some know the answer right away for religious or cultural reasons.
This is an important decision and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that as parents, you learn the facts of circumcision.
Recently there has been more debate about the need for the procedure, as well as who will pay for it, depending on whether you have private or public health insurance. Circumcision typically costs around $300, and some state plans don’t cover it.
Research shows circumcision can reduce urinary tract infections, your child’s risks of penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases. But experts who don’t favor circumcision point out that rates of these conditions are very low to begin with. Still, the AAP advises “health benefits outweigh the risks”, and supports circumcision for families who want it.
If you opt for circumcision for your son, talk with your healthcare provider about the 3 most common techniques used. Ask about the risks and benefits of each before choosing and giving your consent for the surgery.
Ask what type of anesthesia will be used. Circumcision is a painful procedure, and the AAP states that newborns benefit from anesthesia and it is safe. Topical and local medicines are typically used for pain relief.
If your son is born premature, you should delay the circumcision. And if he is born with any abnormalities of the penis that would require using his foreskin in the repair, your healthcare provider will explain the need to delay surgery.
Be sure to discuss any family history of bleeding. Depending on your family history, your care provider may want to have blood tests to check your son’s risk of bleeding.
After the procedure, the penis will heal in 7-10 days. Keep the area clean, and some recommend petroleum jelly to prevent irritation. Complications can occur. Call your practitioner if you see bleeding, swelling, signs of infection, or if your son has trouble urinating.
As with all parenting choices, being informed will help you be comfortable with your decisions.
Usually performed in the first few days of life, circumcision is the removal of the skin covering the head of the penis, and it’s one of the oldest known surgical procedures. In the US, the procedure’s popularity has been declining; currently 55-65% of males are circumcised each year. Worldwide, the number is around 30%. The highest rates of circumcision are in the US, Canada and the Middle East.