Circumcision is an operation to remove the foreskin, the fold of skin covering the end of a boy’s penis. Usually this is for religious or cultural reasons, but sometimes there are medical reasons, such as balanitis, for circumcision.
In a baby boy, the foreskin doesn’t usually pull back. The foreskin starts to separate naturally from the head of the penis when a child is around 2 years old, and by the time they are five, it is completely separate. Don’t force your child’s foreskin back as this will be painful and can cause damage.
Circumcision for religious or cultural reasons
Usually circumcision is carried out in early childhood. It is common practice in Jewish, Islamic and African communities, and is mentioned in a number of religious texts.
When circumcision is practiced for religious reasons it is usually carried out as an outpatient. There are a few things you will need to think about
How to choose where to have the procedure done?
You will need to make sure the doctor performing the procedure is fully trained and registered with the professional body for doctors, The General Medical Council (GMC). They will need to have a surgical qualification, and be a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.
You may also hear positive stories and experiences of family and friends in your community. You could also talk to your religious leaders.
Circumcision that is not for medical reasons is a private procedure and will incur a cost. Different practices will charge different amounts for this procedure.
What will happen in the treatment room?
- Both parents/carers with parental responsibility will need to give consent for the procedure, it cannot be from just one parent
- Usually only one parent or carer is able to stay in the room while the procedure takes place
- Your child will be given local anaesthetic by injection around the base of the penis, this stops the pain messages reaching the brain. Your baby might still cry during the procedure
- Your child should be pain free fairly soon after the procedure
- The child should still be able to pass urine as normal
- Do change nappies regularly, don’t allow them to get too wet
- Do not put creams on the penis as the area needs to be kept dry to avoid infection.
- It can take up to 10 days to heal, slightly longer if the child is older
- If the child has a small penis, and small foreskin or the penis is retracted they may not perform this procedure as there is a risk of injury to surrounding skin. .
Please seek medical attention if your child experiences any of the following:
- Redness to the penis and surrounding skin
- Leaking of yellow smelly discharge from the penis area
- Swelling of the penis meaning they can’t pass urine properly or are unable to pass urine at all
- If your child is generally unwell
Medical reasons for circumcision
If there is a medical reason for the circumcision, it will usually take place in hospital as a day case and under general anaesthetic.
You can find out more about the procedure, including recovery and possible risks on the NHS website. You can also talk to your GP.