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Circumcision

Many parents choose to have their baby boys circumcised for religious, cultural, ethnic, hygienic, or medical reasons. In addition, many parents donít want their sonís penis to appear different from his fatherís or brotherís. However, others see it as an unnecessary and cruel procedure to inflict on a newborn boy.

According to the National Hospital Discharge Survey, 55.9 percent of all male newborns born in U.S. hospitals were circumcised in 2003, down from a high of 64.7 percent in 1980. However, circumcision is uncommon in Asia, South America, Central America, and most of Europe. In fact, 82 percent of the worldís men are intact.

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the prepuce of the foreskin, which is the skin that covers the tip of the penis. It is usually performed within 48 hours of birth before the baby is discharged from the hospital unless he is unstable, premature, or otherwise unhealthy, or if his urethral opening is in an abnormal position (on the side or base of the penis) which may require surgery to correct. In the case of premature babies or unhealthy babies, they may be circumcised when they are ready to leave the hospital. It may also be performed at home for religious reasons several days after birth. Circumcision becomes more complicated and involves greater risk in infants older than 2 months and in older boys and men, so the decision whether or not to circumcise your son should be made before he is born.

The circumcision procedure should only take about 10 or 15 minutes, during which the doctor will clean the penis and surrounding area. The procedure is painful and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends using a local anesthetic or topical numbing cream to reduce pain and distress. Once the anesthetic has been administered and has taken affect, the doctor will attach a special clamp or plastic ring to the penis and cut away the foreskin. He or she will then apply a protective ointment to the area and wrap the penis loosely with gauze.

It will take approximately 7 to 10 days for the babyís penis to heal after a circumcision, during which time a clear crust may form over the area and you may notice a small amount of blood in his diaper Ė both normal and common. Infection is rare, but signs include:

  • a foul-smelling, yellow discharge

  • persistent bleeding

  • redness or swelling of the penis (some minor swelling is common and normal)

  • if your baby doesnít urinate six to eight hours after the circumcision

  • if your baby has a temperature of 100.4 F or higher

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