The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement in 1999 on the use of circumcision. This policy was most recently updated in 2012. The AAP recognizes the following information from studies of both circumcised and uncircumcised males:
The most current AAP report found that the health benefits to circumcision outweigh the risks. However, these benefits are not significant enough to recommend that all newborn baby boys be circumcised. The AAP recommends that parents should be given information on the benefits and risks of newborn circumcision and that parents should decide what is best for their baby.
A newborn boy normally has foreskin tightly fitted over the head of the penis. As long as the baby is able to pass urine through the opening, this is not a problem. It is not necessary to clean inside the foreskin, only the outside, as part of a normal bath.
As the baby grows, the foreskin becomes looser and is able to be retracted (moved back). This may take many months to years. Your baby's doctor will check this as part of your baby's checkups and will show you how to retract the foreskin. This allows cleansing of the area. As a boy grows, he should be taught how to retract the foreskin and clean himself. The foreskin should never be retracted forcibly. Do not allow the foreskin to stay retracted for long periods as this may shut off the blood supply causing pain and possible injury. Sometimes the foreskin becomes stuck in the retracted position and cannot be pulled back down. This is called paraphimosis and is a medical emergency.
In some children, the foreskin cannot be retracted because of a restricted opening, causing a condition called phimosis. This condition may require circumcision later in childhood if it doesn't respond to medical treatment.
Circumcision is usually performed by the obstetrician in the hospital. When it is done for religious reasons, other persons may do the surgery as part of a ceremony after the baby is discharged from the hospital.
Circumcision is performed only on healthy babies. Because the procedure is painful, the AAP recommends using some type of local anesthesia for newborn circumcision. Several types of anesthesia are available, including a numbing cream or injecting small amounts of anesthetic around the penis. Although there are risks with any anesthesia, local anesthesia is considered very safe.
At Children’s National, we use the Gomco clamp method of circumcision. We begin by separating the foreskin from the head of the penis, cutting a small slit in the foreskin, and placing the clamp on the foreskin. The clamp is left in place for a few minutes to stop the bleeding. The foreskin can then be cut and removed.
Circumcisions performed by a qualified doctor rarely have complications. Problems that occur are usually not serious. The most common complications are bleeding and infection. Proper care after circumcision helps reduce the chances of problems.
Your baby's doctor will give you specific instructions on the care of the circumcision. It is important that you keep the area clean. After the procedure:
Your baby may be fussy after circumcision. Cuddling him close and breastfeeding can help comfort him. Most boys do not require special care of the penis after the circumcision is healed.
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