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Circumcision is a minor procedure to remove the foreskin of the penis. There are many different views in society about circumcision. Informing yourself of the risks and benefits of circumcision can help you make the best decision for your son. Read on for more information about the risks and benefits of circumcision.

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is a small surgical operation to remove the foreskin and expose the glans (head) of the penis. The foreskin is a sleeve of skin that covers the end 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.

Why might I choose to get my baby circumcised?

Parents may choose to circumcise their children for a range of reasons. About 1 in 10 newborn boys in Australia undergo circumcision in Australia today.

Male circumcision has been performed for religious and cultural reasons for thousands of years. In some cultures and religions, it remains an important religious and cultural ritual.

There are some health benefits associated with circumcision, such as lower rates of urinary tract infections (UTIs), partial protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and foreskin problems in circumcised males.

Circumcision is sometimes recommended for boys or men who have frequent problems with their foreskin.

Some circumcised fathers may choose to circumcise their sons for social or cosmetic reasons, although many circumcised fathers raise uncircumcised sons without any problems.

Are there any risks associated with circumcision?

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

Rare complications associated with circumcision include:

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

Circumcision is a less complicated operation in newborn boys than in adult men.

Circumcision doesn’t enhance or negatively affect sexual function.

What is the health advice on circumcision?

Current health advice in Australia does not support routine circumcision for non-medical reasons. However, it is considered reasonable for parents to think about the risks and benefits of the procedure in their own son’s situation when deciding whether or not to circumcise their child.

If you choose to circumcise your son, 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 son 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 glans (head) of the penis. As this happens, your son may experience some redness or pain when weeing. This is normal and usually gets better on its own within a few days. You may also notice small collections of white or yellow lumps called smegma under your son’s foreskin — these are normal.

Every boy is different, and foreskin separation can normally happen at any time through a wide range of ages. By age 4, about 9 in 10 boys will be able to fully retract (pull down) their foreskin. For some boys, full separation may not happen until puberty.

Rarely, the foreskin will never 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 an uncircumcised penis?

It’s important to look after your son’s penis and foreskin to keep them healthy and prevent problems.

Never forcibly retract your son’s foreskin. You do not need to clean inside your baby’s foreskin and forcing it to retract can cause scarring.

Once your son’s foreskin can be fully retracted, teach him to retract it while bathing or showering. After washing his penis along with the rest of his body, he should rinse off any soap and replace the foreskin to cover the head of the penis. Your son should also always replace the foreskin to cover the head of his penis after weeing.

Ask 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.

How do I look after a circumcised penis?

If you choose to have your son circumcised, ask your doctor or surgeon for instructions about caring for your son’s penis in the days after the procedure.

After healing from circumcision, 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.

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

Last reviewed: April 2022

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