Choosing whether or not to circumcise your son can be a difficult choice. The important thing to remember is that circumcision is a choice. When a male fetus is developing, specifically his genitals, the penis develops with a special covering. This covering is called the foreskin. What once was thought of as a useless bit of skin, much like the appendix, has turned out, through research, to have a purpose.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis. This is generally performed on infant males within the first few days of life. For those of the Jewish faith, circumcisions have a special spiritual/religious meaning. In Judaism, circumcisions are performed on the eighth day of life in a special ceremony called a Bris.
Most countries in the world do not routinely circumcise male infants. The United States currently has the highest percentage of infant male circumcision. Circumcision is also currently the most common surgical procedure performed in the U.S.
There are three different techniques used to perform a circumcision; the Gomco, Plastibell and Mogen method.
1. The Gomco clamp
The Gomco clamp is the most widely used method for infant male circumcision. The device includes a bell that is placed on the tip of the penis (glans) and the foreskin is pulled over it. Another portion of the Gomco clamp includes a flat plate with a hole that is placed over the bell. When the doctor has the clamp placed in the proper position, tension is then placed causing the foreskin to become separated from the penis. When the circumcision is complete, the Gomco clamp is removed, and a dressing is applied to the penis.
2. The Plastibell Method
The Plastibell method involves a clear plastic ring being placed on the tip of the penis (glans). A surgical ligature tie is made to the foreskin, butting off blood flow. The excess foreskin above the Plastibell is trimmed off. The plastic ring remains in place to the tip of the penis where it should fall off around 7 days after the procedure.
3. The Mogen clamp
The Mogen clamp is commonly used by Mohels during a Bris. The Mogen clamp is faster than other circumcision methods. It involves clamping the foreskin to be removed with a scalpel.
When the circumcision is completed, regardless of the method used, the penis will be covered with a small dressing.
Caring for a baby boy who has had a circumcision is relatively simple. At each diaper change, a small amount of pure petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment needs to be applied to the tip of the penis and covered with clean gauze. The penis can be rinsed with water, but you should avoid the use of soap until the area heals.
It will take about 7 days for the tip of the penis to heal. After that time, no special treatment besides normal hygiene is needed.
While circumcision is a simple procedure with minimal risks, complications are possible.
You should call your child’s healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:
- Plastibell ring has not fallen off by 2 weeks
- Bleeding from the penis in excess of a few drops
- Black or Blue discoloration on the penis
- Foul smelling discharge from the circumcision site
Further information about circumcision can be found both online and through literature. The topic of circumcision is a highly heated parental debate. Finding information, especially online, that is unbiased and factual is very difficult. Some individuals believe that circumcising infants and thus amputating a part of their body without a medical indication is wrong. While the current policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend that each and every infant male be circumcised, they do include that it is a legitimate parental choice. This includes the understanding that all parents who choose to circumcise their infant sons be given accurate and unbiased information so that they can make their decision an informed one. The American Academy of Pediatrics also includes in their policy statement that proper pain relief is safe and effective and therefore should be used if the choice to circumcise is made. For more information, see the Circumcision Policy Statement and AAP Policy.