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Circumcision is the surgical removal of the skin covering the tip of the penis. Circumcision is fairly common for newborn boys in certain parts of the world, including Australia. Circumcision after the newborn period is possible, but it’s a more complex procedure.

Circumcision can be matter of family tradition, personal hygiene or preventive health care. Sometimes there’s a medical need for circumcision, such as when the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back (retracted) over the glans

Circumcision might have various health benefits, including:

  • Easier hygiene. Circumcision makes it simpler to wash the penis
  • Reduced risk of urinary tract infections. Severe infections early in life can lead to kidney problems later on
  • Decreased risk of sexually transmitted infection (However safe sexual practices remain essential)
  • Prevention of penile problems – Occasionally, the foreskin on an uncircumcised penis can be difficult or impossible to retract (phimosis)
  • Decreased risk of penile cancer. Although cancer of the penis is rare, it’s less common in circumcised men. In addition, cervical cancer is less common in the female sexual partners of circumcised men.

Circumcision doesn’t affect fertility, nor is circumcision generally thought to enhance or detract from sexual pleasure for men or their partners.

The procedure

Newborn circumcision is usually performed one to two months after birth.

For newborn circumcision the penis and surrounding area are cleansed, an anaesthetic will be injected into the base of the penis or applied to the penis as a cream. A special plastic ring and a string will be attached to the penis and the foreskin will fall off naturally. Afterwards, the penis will be covered with an ointment, and wrapped loosely with gauze. The procedure generally takes about 20 minutes.

Circumcision technique varies for older boys and adults. The procedure may need additional steps, such as excision of the foreskin and suturing.

The most common complications associated with circumcision are bleeding and infection. Side effects related to anaesthesia are possible as well.

Rarely, circumcision might result in foreskin problems. For example:

  • The foreskin might be cut too short or too long
  • The foreskin might fail to heal properly
  • The remaining foreskin might reattach to the end of the penis, requiring minor surgical repair

After the procedure

It usually takes about seven to 10 days for the penis to heal. The tip of the penis is likely to be sore at first, and the penis might look red, swollen or bruised.

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