Circumcision is the surgical removal of foreskin from a baby’s penis. There are several benefits to circumcision, including a lower risk of diseases like urinary tract infections. Older boys and men get circumcised as well. At any age, the circumcised penis usually heals within a week.
Circumcision removes the foreskin covering the glans (head) of the penis. Usually, babies undergo circumcision shortly after birth. Circumcision began as a religious rite. Today, people get circumcised for religious, medical and cultural reasons.
Many baby boys get circumcised, usually within the first week of life. Adults can get circumcised as well, though it’s less common.
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The foreskin is a piece of skin that covers the round tip of the penis. When a baby is born, the foreskin is completely attached to the penis. Over time, the foreskin separates from the head of the penis and is able to be retracted, or pulled back. Sometimes, the foreskin doesn’t separate when it should and remains tight, a condition called phimosis. Usually phimosis requires further intervention or circumcision to correct it.
Circumcision is the most common surgery among males. In the United States, up to 60% of baby boys are circumcised. Around the world, the rate is about 33% of males. The highest rates of circumcision are in the U.S., Middle East and South Korea. It’s much less common in Europe, other parts of Asia and South America. Jewish and Muslim people perform circumcision as part of their religions.
Typically, circumcisions happen a day or two after birth, in the hospital. It’s best to do it as soon as possible. Delaying the procedure can make it riskier.
In the Jewish faith, circumcision (also called a bris) gets performed when a baby is 8 days old. Other cultures perform circumcision at a later age.
A urologist, obstetrician or pediatrician can do the circumcision on the newborn in the hospital. A healthcare provider can also perform it later, in the office. In a bris, a trained professional called a mohel performs the circumcision.
Your provider may recommend giving the baby some acetaminophen to help with pain relief. In most cases before the procedure, the person doing the circumcision will:
The person doing the baby’s circumcision:
Immediately after removing the foreskin, the person doing the procedure applies ointment and wraps the penis in gauze.
The entire procedure takes approximately 20 minutes. Often, a bris takes less time.
Like any surgery, circumcision can cause some pain. But using pain medications and anesthetics can reduce discomfort. These can help both during the procedure and afterward.
Yes. People who were not circumcised as babies may choose to undergo circumcision as an adult. Generally, the procedure is the same for older boys and adults as it is for babies.
You’ll likely have the procedure in the hospital, using anesthesia. The surgery may take slightly longer than it does for infants. You will need stitches after the circumcision, too. Your healthcare provider will talk to you about recovery, including when you can resume having sex.
Circumcision is a routine, safe procedure. As with any surgery, there are some risks, though. These include:
In rare cases, the foreskin doesn’t heal properly and can adhere to the end of the penis (penile adhesion). If that happens, the child may need a second procedure.
Circumcision has several benefits. Not only does it help aspects of penis health, but it can improve hygiene. That’s because a circumcised penis is simpler to clean and wash, especially for children.
The specific health benefits of circumcision include a lower risk of:
Your provider may recommend delaying circumcision or not doing it at all if your baby:
Recovery from circumcision takes about eight to 10 days. While the penis heals, it may look swollen and red. You may see a yellow film at the tip.
Your healthcare provider will explain how to take care of the circumcised penis. You’ll need to:
If the penis doesn’t seem to be healing correctly or you have concerns, call your healthcare provider.
Circumcision doesn’t affect fertility (ability to produce a biological child). And researchers believe it doesn’t hurt or enhance sexual pleasure.
Call a healthcare provider if you see signs that the penis isn’t healing well, such as:
Several major medical associations recommend offering circumcision as a choice for parents. These groups include the American Urological Association (AUA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Both organizations believe that circumcision has benefits as well as risks. Ultimately, the decision is personal, with the groups suggesting that parents decide. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about the pros and cons. You can then make the decision that’s right for you.
If you do choose circumcision, the AAP recommends that the healthcare provider use pain medication.
If you choose not to have your son circumcised, talk to your healthcare provider. They’ll explain how to keep the penis clean. During the first few years of life, the foreskin will stay attached to the penis and won’t retract. Don’t force it back. Once your son is old enough, teach him how to clean the penis and foreskin.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Circumcision in baby boys is a very common procedure. There are several benefits to circumcision, including making the penis easier to clean. Circumcision can also reduce or prevent certain diseases, like urinary tract infections. As with any surgery, circumcision comes with some risks. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider about the circumcision procedure and if it’s the right choice for your baby.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/23/2021.
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