When baby boys are born, they have loose skin, known as the foreskin, covering the end of the penis. This foreskin is joined to the glans (head) of the penis, and the foreskin cannot be pulled back to expose the head until sometime during childhood. Circumcision is a surgical procedure where the foreskin is removed by cutting it away, which exposes the head (glans) of the penis permanently.
Circumcision can be performed as a newborn, baby, toddler, in adolescence and even in adulthood. Many parents who choose to circumcise their boy do so when the baby is a newborn, in the days or weeks following birth. There are many reasons for circumcision of a newborn boy.
Circumcision procedure for newborns
Many medical professionals who perform circumcisions report that when newborns are circumcised, they seem to get through the procedure easier than boys and men of other ages.
Local anaesthesia is given, with a numbing cream applied an hour before the procedure. After the local anaesthesia is given, the baby will feel movement and pressure during the procedure. The surgery only takes about 10 minutes. As with all surgeries, there will be some pain during the recovery stage. However, this usually does not last more than a couple of days. Following the procedure, babies may be fussy and in mild pain in the hours following the procedure and for a few days following. Pain can be relieved by applying a cold pack to the area gently, separated by cloth, and using vaseline. The vaseline acts as a cushion to minimise rubbing. The surgeon, or your GP may also give you something else, if it is needed.
There are a number of reasons as to why parents circumcise their newborn baby, with a number of benefits of getting this done while the child is still a newborn. These are the top 11 reasons for circumcising your boy while he is a newborn.
#1 Decreased risk of UTIs in circumcised babies
Especially for babies who have kidney problems, circumcision has the health benefit of reducing the risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs).
A 2012 study of 30 years of data on circumcision suggested that it is nearly 10 times more likely for an uncircumcised baby boy to develop a urinary tract infection in the first year as circumcised baby boys. While UTIs are still a low risk for baby boys, this is something to keep in mind.
#2 Prescribed as a treatment for recurring UTIs
Babies who present with repeated UTIs in their first year of life can be treated with circumcision as a reactive health measure.
#3 Prescribed as a treatment for Foreskin Problems
Circumcision is a treatment prescribed for a number of foreskin problems that can become an issue for some boys as they grow older. These are often reasons for circumcision in older children and adolescent boys.
For some younger boys, issues can be experienced with their foreskins becoming too tight, which can cause swelling and can be uncomfortable. This can also cause the foreskin to balloon when urinating. If the foreskin is pulled back when it is still tight or is not replaced after being pulled back, it can sometimes get stuck and cause paraphimosis, forming a tight ring around the head of the penis which will need medical attention if it cannot be returned to its former placement. If a tight foreskin becomes an issue before puberty, circumcision is sometimes performed.
A tight foreskin should resolve after puberty. If it does not, medical attention may be required. Older boys may still experience tightness of the foreskin and difficulty pulling back and replacing the foreskin. If the foreskin is impossible or difficult to retract from the head of the penis, inflammation can occur in either the foreskin or the head of the penis. If the foreskin cannot be pushed back to its usual position, urgent medical attention is needed.
#4 Circumcision to prevent foreskin problems in the future
As many foreskin issues can be experienced when a boy is growing old enough to find it embarrassing to raise these problems with his parents, (and will likely find the circumcision process embarrassing if required to address these issues), prevention of potential foreskin issues from occurring in the future is another of the key reasons for circumcision in a newborn for many parents…
As a baby, the foreskin will be attached to the head of the penis and will not separate enough to be pulled back until later on, so many foreskin problems do not present until a boy is at least 10.
During childhood, the foreskin will slowly start to separate from the head and will gradually be able to be pulled back more over time. Usually, at ten years of age, the opening at the end is still too tight, so it cannot often be fully pulled back. The foreskin may not fully separate from the glans until after puberty. After puberty, the foreskin should be able to be pulled back easily. If it does not, there may be foreskin problems that need addressing. Good personal hygiene and cleaning under and around the foreskin are essential from this time to prevent infection.
#5 Easier and more thorough personal hygiene
Boys with a foreskin need to be taught to thoroughly wash and clean themselves, pulling back the foreskin to do so and cleaning underneath, and around it.
As boys grow older and even into adulthood, they can find it difficult to practice good hygiene, as pulling back the foreskin to properly clean the penis and protect infections from occurring can be time-consuming, requires attention and good habits, and can at times be uncomfortable or painful.
Circumcision makes it simple to wash the penis properly as the extra care of cleaning underneath the foreskin is not needed.
#6 Lower risk of penile cancer
Having your baby’s penis circumcised will help to reduce the risk of your child developing a rare cancer of the penis later in life. While this is a rare condition, it’s less common in men that are circumcised. Additionally, female cervical cancer is less common for the female sexual partners of men who are circumcised.
# 7 Circumcision is physically easier when boys or men are younger
Circumcision for adolescent boys and adult men can be a longer recovery time, and a more difficult process mentally than if the circumcision is performed as a baby. We typically say that parents wanting their son to be circumcised at any point should consider having this procedure done while the boy is still a newborn.
While newborn babies do, of course, still feel pain, practitioners who perform circumcisions for males of all ages report newborns to appear to get through the process easier than older children.
# 8 Circumcision is mentally easier when boys or men are younger
With the body awareness that comes with being an older child, adolescent or adult, the process may feel more mentally awkward and embarrassing for the patient the older they are, despite the health and hygiene benefits of the procedure. As penises and foreskins are not often the topic of open discussion, an older boy may find it awkward to talk about.
#9 Post circumcision care can be easier for young babies
Sometimes older boys can experience a small amount of pain if they get an erection during recovery, which can be relieved with ice, but may pose some embarrassment for a boy to address this with his parents or have attention drawn to the situation.
Older boys may also find it hard to opt-out of rough and overly active social activities, such as bicycle riding and contact sport during their recovery time, while newborn infants do not need to be restrained in movement for their recovery.
For sexually active adult men, circumcision recovery may be a difficult process, as they must also abstain from strenuous physical activity and abstain from stimulating the penis for 6-8 weeks following the procedure.
#10 Being circumcised reduces the risk of STIs, and STDs such as HIV and AIDS later in life
Having a circumcised penis may reduce the possibility of sexually transmitted infections and some STDs such as HIV and AIDS.
In parts of the world where STIs and STDs are more common, circumcision is actively recommended for older boys or men to reduce the risk of contracting these infections or diseases.
#11 Religious or cultural reasons
Some families choose to circumcise their boys for cultural or religious reasons. For example, Islamic and Jewish customs typically see boys circumcised, as do some aboriginal groups in Australia and Africa. For some, circumcision is also a family tradition.
More information on circumcision for newborn boys
For more information on circumcision of newborn babies, circumcision aftercare for babies, following the procedure, or anything else about the circumcision process, the experienced and caring team at Russell Medical are here to help. With over 50 years of experience, understanding and care, we are here to put your mind at ease and assist with information for any questions you may have.