If you have a boy child, one of the decisions you might have to consider is whether to circumcise the little one or not. There are many myths and misconceptions about circumcision which can make your decision more difficult. Read on to understand more about this procedure, the pros and cons and some help on how to make this decision.
What Is Circumcision?
Boys have a piece of skin, called foreskin, covering the end of their penis. Circumcision is the surgical procedure of removing this foreskin.
The foreskin is a fold of skin and mucus membrane which has the task of protecting the sensitive head of the penis (called glans) from dryness, irritation and contact with clothes.
Is Circumcision Commonly Done In India?
Circumcision is very common in some religions, especially Islam, in India. Other religious groups, like Jewish and Judaism, also follow circumcision of male children. However, it is very uncommon in non-Muslim and non-Jewish communities in India.
In the Western world, it is slightly more common for parents to consider circumcision for non-religious objectives like hygienic, cultural or social reasons.
When Is Circumcision Done?
If the new born is healthy, then the circumcision is performed in the early days of birth, mostly within first 10 days, often within 48 hours. The Jewish circumcise the baby on the 8th day post the birth. The age at which the baby is circumcised also depends on the religious beliefs (Some Islam communities carries it out in infants, some wait till they are older) and the type of anesthesia used (local for infants, general for older kids).
It is safer to do the procedure on smaller children than older ones – so it is usually recommended to go for it earlier than later to reduce the risk associated with surgery. Where it takes about 5 to 10 minutes to circumcise a newborn, it can take about 1 hour in a grown man.
How Is Circumcision Performed In Babies?
While till recent times circumcision was performed at home as a part of a religious ceremony, it is now increasingly seen as a surgical procedure to be carried out in the hospital. It is considered as a minor surgery which does not require overnight stay in most cases. The procedure is done in 5 to 10 minutes and the healing takes about 7 days time.
Circumcision is done with or without an anesthesia. There are three common methods for circumcision:
- Plastibell: This is used in infants weighing at least 2.5 kgs. A plastic ring is fixed around the glans, and foreskin is trimmed around it
- Gamco: This is used in babies weighing around 5 kg. A special clamp called Gamco clamp is used to hold and separate the foreskin from the glans and then cut away
- Mogen: This is also used in babies weighing around 5 kg. It is the quickest method – takes around 30 seconds only. A special clamp called Mogen clamp is used to pull forward the foreskin through a slit in the clamp and is quickly cut off
Can Anesthesia Be Used During Circumcision?
If your baby is an infant, then the pediatrician will use a local anesthetic (administered as an injection, or rubbed on as a cream) to numb the area. If the child is older, it is generally recommended to put the child under general anesthesia. In some faiths – such as Jewish – circumcision is performed without any anesthesia.
Aftercare of a Circumcised Penis
After the circumcision, it is common for the tip of the penis to appear raw, red, swollen or yellow. It is also common to see little blood in the diapers. Follow the below aftercare routine so as to reduce chances of infection and lessen your baby’s discomfort:
- Clean the penis with warm water and mild soap
- Refrain from using wet wipes
- If the doctor agrees, put baby Vaseline at the tip of the penis and in front of the diaper for few days
After the initial two days, there might be a yellow discharge and crust appearing in the diaper – this is normal. However, if you see any signs of infections, like continued bleeding, fever or blisters, take the child to the doctor immediately.
Health Benefits of Circumcision
There are lot of contradictory information on the health benefits of circumcision. It is, however, unarguable that there are some benefits. A circumcised male is less likely to develop:
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Foreskin infections
- Penile cancer
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases
However, most of these problems are very rare in males in any case – for instance, only 1% of the uncircumcised males ever get UTI. Further, some experts argue that a circumcised male is not any less susceptible to catching an STD like AIDS than their uncircumcised counterparts. Another major misconception is around the hygiene of the penis. While it was earlier thought that a circumcised penis is more hygienic, it is now agreed that an uncircumcised penis is also easy to clean and care for.
It is generally concluded that the benefits do not outweigh the risks associated with performing a surgical procedure on a small baby. This is the reason the procedure is not medically recommended.
Risks or Drawbacks of Circumcision
Although circumcision has some health benefits, it comes with its own share of risks as well:
- Surgical complications: As with any surgery, circumcision also poses – although rare – complications like bleeding, swelling and infection (all of which can be treated)
- Pain: Despite using an anesthetic, the baby will go through some amount of pain and discomfort after the numbness passes
- Protection of glans: As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the purpose of foreskin is to protect the top of the penis (glans). Without the foreskin, this area is will be permanently uncovered and can become sensitive
- Penile sensitivity: This is another debatable factor. Some experts claim that circumcision can lessen the sexual pleasure later in life. This is, however, not proven to be true
Making The Decision: Yes or No
This is an elective procedure. It is easier to make the decision based on religious reasons. Some people also opt for circumcision for social reasons, i.e., if other members in the family has been circumcised, especially the child’s dad, then you might want your child to look physically same as his immediate male role models.
If not for religious or social reasons, then it is a decision you and your partner need to make after weighing in all the pros and cons of the surgery. While there is no arguments that there are benefits, the scientific evidence of these benefits is not yet strong enough for doctors to recommend circumcision medically.
You need to, however, make the decision quickly. As mentioned before, circumcision is riskier to perform in older kids and is best done in infancy. So it is best to think about it during your pregnancy itself (even if you do not know the gender of the child yet) so that you have enough time to educate yourself about this.