The facts about circumcision

One of the difficult decisions many couples face when having a boy is to circumcise or not? Here’s all you need to know. By Lynette Botha

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is when the foreskin of the penis is removed surgically. This procedure is usually performed for religious or personal preferences. However, there are medical reasons why you should consider circumcision.

What are the religious reasons for circumcision?

Circumcision in Jewish and Islamic religions is an obligation and is performed shortly after birth. In the Jewish faith, it’s generally performed eight days after birth if the baby’s healthy. Circumcision is not a requirement for Judaism. However, it’s frowned upon if a man isn’t circumcised and is seen to have negative spiritual connotations.

In Islam, circumcision is mainly performed due to cleanliness concerns and isn’t necessarily performed at birth; boys can be circumcised up until their teens.

In some African cultures, circumcision is seen as a rite of passage to becoming a man. The procedure is then followed by cultural ceremonies.

What are the medical reasons for circumcision?

According to Dr Michael Dickinson, the main medical reasons for circumcision are that circumcised infants have fewer bladder and kidney infections in the first year of life. Circumcised men also have lower rates of sexually transmitted infections (including herpes and HIV) when they’re older.

Why should you consider it at birth?

If your child will eventually be circumcised anyway, it’s good to consider the procedure at birth rather than performing it later on. It’s still a painful process and your baby will need anaesthetic.

And if I choose not to circumcise my child?

Circumcision can always be performed later in life if you (or your son, when older) decide it is something that should be done. If you choose not to circumcise, all that is required is a little extra care when cleaning the area. Normal secretions gather under the foreskin – it needs to be retracted and washed gently to ensure the whole area is clean.

What does the procedure entail?

The procedure is usually performed between one to ten days after birth, depending on the baby’s health and religion. The baby will lie on his back, with limbs restrained, and the penis and groin area will be cleaned. An anaesthetic in injection or cream form will be used and a clamp or ring will be attached to the penis and the foreskin will be removed. The procedure takes between 10 and 15 minutes. Afterwards an ointment is applied and the penis is bandaged loosely.

How long until it heals?

It usually takes just over a week. During this time, you need to be very gentle around the area when changing your baby’s nappy. The area can be washed and wiped; apply some petroleum jelly to the tip of the penis and loosely fasten the diaper. This is painful for your baby, so he may be irritable and sore.

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