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What is circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the tissue covering the head of the penis.

Most men in the UK are not circumcised and most of those that have been circumcised will have had the procedure performed for cultural and religious reasons rather than medical ones.

The NHS only carries out circumcisions for medical reasons.

When is circumcision done?

Circumcision for religious reasons is usually carried out within some days of the boy being born.

How is circumcision done?

During a circumcision, the foreskin is freed from the head of the penis (glans), and the excess foreskin is clipped off. If done in the newborn period, the procedure takes about five to ten minutes. Adult circumcision takes about one hour. The circumcision generally heals in 5 to 7 days.

Is circumcision necessary?

Circumcision is only carried out on the NHS in cases where it is medically necessary. It is usually performed as a last resort when other types of treatment have been unsuccessful.

Should you circumcise your baby?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your feelings about circumcision in general?
  • Is the baby's father circumcised or not? Do you think it will matter if his penis looks the same as or different to that of his male role models?
  • Are there cultural or religious reasons to have your child circumcised (or not) that are important to you and your family?
  • Finally, after all is said and done, what does your heart tell you is the right thing to do?

What are the health benefits of circumcision?

There is some evidence that circumcision has health benefits, including:

  • A decreased risk of urinary tract infections.
  • A reduced risk of some sexually transmitted infections in men, such as HIV.
  • Reduced risk of penile cancer.
  • Prevention of balanitis (inflammation of the glans) and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin).
  • Prevention of phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the foreskin to its original location).
  • Circumcision may reduce a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer, according to some research but further research is needed.

What are the risks of circumcision?

Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, this risk is low. Problems associated with circumcision include:

  • Pain
  • Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision
  • Irritation of the glans
  • Increased risk of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis)
  • Risk of injury to the penis

If you choose circumcision for your baby:

  • Some experts say the sooner circumcision is performed, the better for the baby. Others suggest waiting until they are older and can make up their own mind.
  • Make sure it is performed by an experienced professional and take advice from your GP about who this may be, even if circumcision is to be performed at a later date as part of a religious ceremony.
  • Ask the following questions before the procedure:
  • How and when is the circumcision done?
  • What are the potential risks and how often do they occur?
  • What is entailed in caring for the recently circumcised penis?
  • Learn about pain management
  • Circumcision hurts. There's no way around that, except to take comfort that babies have very short memories.
  • Many hospitals now perform circumcisions with local anaesthetic. Ask if that will be done and,if not, ask why not?

Remember that there is no right or wrong way to decide whether circumcision is right for your child. Weigh up all the factors involved before making a decision.

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