Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


6-minute read

Key facts

  • Circumcision is a minor procedure to remove the foreskin of the penis.
  • Parents may choose to circumcise their child for religious, cultural or medical reasons.
  • Informing yourself of the risks and benefits of circumcision can help you make the best decision for your child.
  • It is important to clean the penis and foreskin to avoid any foreskin problems.

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is a small surgical operation. It is done to:

  • remove the foreskin, which is the sleeve of skin that covers the end of the penis
  • expose the glans (head) of the penis
  • This article is about male circumcision.

All forms of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is sometimes known as female circumcision, are illegal in Australia. FGM is harmful and unnecessary.

Why might I choose to get my baby circumcised?

Parents may choose to circumcise their children for a range of reasons. About 1 in 7 newborns in Australia undergo circumcision.

Male circumcision may be performed for:

  • health and hygiene reasons
  • religious and cultural reasons

In some cultures and religions, circumcision remains a normal and important ritual.

There are health benefits associated with circumcision, such as:

Circumcision is sometimes recommended for older males who have frequent problems with their foreskin.

Are there any physical risks associated with circumcision?

Circumcision is generally a safe operation, but like all surgeries, it does carry some risks.

Rare complications associated with circumcision are:

  • bleeding at the surgical site
  • infection of the penis
  • damage to the penis
  • complications from any anaesthetic or medicines used during or after the procedure

Circumcision is a less complicated operation in newborns than in adults.

Circumcision doesn't appear to affect sexual function.

Circumcision surgery can cause pain, both:

  • during the surgery
  • in the days after surgery

It can be a difficult process for both a newborn and adults.

What is the health advice on circumcision?

In Australia, current health advice only supports routine circumcision for medical reasons.

However, it is considered reasonable for parents to think about the risks and benefits of the procedure in their own child's situation when deciding whether or not to circumcise their child.

If you choose to circumcise your child, it's important to make sure the procedure is performed safely by a properly trained professional.

Here are some questions you may like to ask your doctor or surgeon:

  • How do you perform the procedure?
  • What type of pain relief will you use?
  • How do I care for my child after the procedure?
  • How will you manage any complications?

How does the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis separate?

Over time, the foreskin will naturally separate from the tip of the penis. As this happens, your child may experience some redness or pain when urinating (weeing). This is normal and usually gets better on its own within a few days.

Your child may also notice white or yellow lumps under their foreskin. These are called smegma, and they are normal.

Every child is different, and foreskin separation can normally happen at any time through a wide range of ages. By about 5 years, most boys will be able to partially retract (pull back) their foreskin.

However, full separation may not happen until puberty.

Rarely, the foreskin does not separate from the head of the penis. This condition is called phimosis and may need medical treatment.

Ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your son's foreskin.

How do I look after a circumcised penis?

If you choose to have your child circumcised, ask your doctor or surgeon how to care for your child's penis in the days after the procedure.

After circumcision, the penis might look red or swollen. This is normal and should go away in a few days. After circumcision, your child should avoid:

  • long baths
  • activities such as trampolining and bike riding

After circumcision, ensure your child continues to drink water.

You can give them pain relief such as paracetamol if needed. Aspirin should never be given to children.

Seek medical attention if after the operation, your child:

  • has severe swelling around their penis
  • has a fever
  • vomits multiple times
  • has pus coming from the circumcision wound
  • is bleeding from the circumcision wound

After healing, a circumcised penis does not need any special care. You should teach your child to wash his penis like he washes the rest of his body while bathing or showering.

How do I look after an uncircumcised penis?

It's important to care for your child's uncircumcised penis and foreskin. This will keep it healthy and prevent foreskin problems in the future.

Never forcibly retract the foreskin. This can cause pain, injury or scarring. The foreskin should only be pulled back as far as is comfortable for your child.

Once your child's foreskin can be fully retracted, you can teach them to retract it while bathing or showering. Most boys will not be able to retract their foreskins before 5 years. Sometimes it's not possible until they're 10 years or older.

When the foreskin is pulled back, the visible part of the penis can be washed with the rest of the body. After washing, teach your child to rinse off any soap and replace the foreskin to cover the head of their penis.

The inside of the foreskin does not need to be cleaned.

Always check with your doctor before applying any antiseptic creams or lotions to the penis or foreskin.

If the foreskin is retracted and becomes stuck, seek urgent medical attention. This is known as paraphimosis.

Resources and support

For more information, you can visit the:

You can also find translated resources in languages other than English through the:

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results


Circumcision surgically removes the foreskin of the penis. This may be done for different reasons. Learn about the risks and benefits of circumcision.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Circumcision | Raising Children Network

Experts agree that the risks of circumcision for boys for non-medical reasons outweigh benefits. It’s important to make an informed choice about circumcision.

Read more on website

Circumcision | Children's Health Queensland

Find out what happens during surgery for circumcision.

Read more on Queensland Health website

Circumcision: Benefits, risks & procedure | Healthy Male

Male circumcision involves the surgical removal of the foreskin. Learn more about evidence on the benefits of circumcision and the risks or side effects.

Read more on Healthy Male website

Foreskin problems and circumcision | Healthy Male

You might have a problem with your foreskin if it becomes hard to pull back, red, swollen, inflamed, or develops lumps. Here are some causes.

Read more on Healthy Male website

Foreskin care - Better Health Channel

Regular cleaning under the foreskin is essential to prevent infection.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Newborn baby essentials

Find out some of the essentials for looking after your newborn. Find out when your baby will need to have health checkups and immunisations. There is also lots of information on nappies, giving your baby a bath and teeth development.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Lichen sclerosus: Symptoms, causes & treatment | Healthy Male

Learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatments for lichen sclerosus or balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO), a common skin disorder.

Read more on Healthy Male website

Baby genitals: care and cleaning | Raising Children Network

Keeping your baby’s genitals clean helps to prevent infections. To clean baby genitals, use warm water, mild cleanser and a cotton ball or soft cloth.

Read more on website

Phimosis: Symptoms, causes & treatments | Healthy Male

Phimosis is when you can't pull your foreskin back over the head of your penis. Learn about the signs you have phimosis and how to treat it.

Read more on Healthy Male website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.