Deciding whether or not to circumcise your baby boy is an important decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics has swung back and forth on the subject, most recently determining that the benefits outweigh the risks. However, the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal circumcision.
The practice also varies greatly by country: Less than 20 percent of men in South American and Western European countries are circumcised. In the United States, some 76 to 92 percent are—and numbers continue to fluctuate. U.S. hospital circumcision rates fell 10 percent from 1979 through 2010.
Parents who decide to forego the procedure will need to learn how to properly take care of an uncircumcised penis.
When a child is born, little pieces of tissue called adhesions attach the foreskin to the tip of the penis. It’s important not to forcibly retract the foreskin because it can be painful. At about 3 years of age, the adhesions start to break down. When the foreskin can naturally retract—often by age 5—it’s time to teach your child how to care for it moving forward. There are two key topics to cover: peeing and cleaning.
Peeing through the foreskin can cause burning and scaring, so it’s best for boys to pull it back, pee, then put it back down. The area underneath the foreskin should also be washed daily with soap and water. It’s important to make sure all the soap is washed away to avoid irritation.
If you have questions about how to help your child care for his uncircumcised penis, talk to your pediatrician or a urologist.
Dr. Adrienne Heckler is a urologist at Vancouver Clinic. She employs advanced microscopic and robotic skills to provide excellent care to patients. She is also an expert in urologic oncology.