Circumcision is a procedure viewed as a rite of passage to puberty in many cultures. However, more and more parents are opting to have it done while their son is still a baby, often to avoid future pain. But does it hurt to get circumcised even if it’s done during infancy?
Baby circumcision: Does it hurt to get circumcised for babies?
Circumcision is the surgical procedure of separating excess foreskin from the head of the penis (or glans) forcefully before cutting it off. Some do it for religious or cultural reasons, while others opt for the procedure for hygienic or medical purposes.
However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.”
Even if baby boys are given anesthesia prior to the procedure, does it hurt to get circumcised regardless?
One mom blogger took to Instagram to share the reality of infant circumcision. In the post, which earned mixed reactions, the blogger highlighted just how painful circumcision can be.
A study published in the Paediatrics & Child Health Journal found that it does hurt babies, even with anesthesia. What’s more, another study published in Pediatrics found that only 45% of doctors use an anesthetic when circumcising infants.
Normally, a baby is strapped down with a Circumstraint, or an apparatus with velcro cuffs to secure baby’s hands and legs. The doctor will then apply antiseptic to sterilize the area.
Then, doctors can apply topical anesthesia, which is as much as you can give babies, as sedating them would be risky. However, some studies claim local anesthesia is also a safe option.
Because of this, they still can feel pain. To access the head of the penis and the inner foreskin, a doctor uses forceps to widen the tiny opening. Some parents and physicians view the act as “barbaric,” while others believe it is a necessary part of life.
Whatever you believe, one thing’s for sure: no parent wants to see their child in any pain.
Are there ways to minimize pain during baby circumcision?
Does circumcision hurt babies? Yes, but there are ways to manage pain.
Though preferences vary among doctors, what’s certain is that circumcision causes pain and stress to newborns.
Researchers at Group Health Inc. and the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development found that newborns, “Cry vigorously, tremble, and in some cases become mildly cyanotic [having blueness or lividness of the skin, caused by a deficiency of oxygen] because of prolonged crying” during circumcision.
Some studies even claim babies remember the pain that comes with circumcision. It also rewires how their brain responds to pain in the future.
Infant circumcision is a decision you must make with the help of your child’s pediatrician as early as possible. Note that in some cases it can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in young boys. Circumcision can also prevent STDs or penile cancer in adult men.
If you do decide not to have your son circumcised, rest assured that this has no bearing on their future health or hygiene. Because cleaning an uncircumcised penis is pretty easy.
To minimize pain during circumcision, make sure to consult your child’s doctor as to the safest level of anesthesia for newborns.
Though pain is an unavoidable part of the procedure, it doesn’t have to be unbearable for your baby.
What is baby’s circumcision and its procedure?
After giving birth to your baby son, your pediatrician may ask you this: Do you plan to have your baby circumcised?
The same thing with adults, circumcision in babies is done with the common surgical procedure in which your baby’s foreskin or the hood of the skin covering the penis is to be removed.
Babies undergoing this surgical procedure can have it 2 or 3 days after their birth before leaving the hospital.
Statistical presentation of babies born in the U.S. tallied about 55% of newborns who underwent circumcision. Others had the surgery, but others did not.
Image from Shutterstock
What to prepare for your baby’s circumcision?
Ask and talk over with your doctor about your consideration of having your baby circumcised. You may also ask a pediatrician, family doctor, urologist, neonatalogist, or even the pediatric surgeon.
While talking over the procedure, your doctor will tell you the advantages and disadvantages of doing the surgery. This is your chance to ask questions you need to.
Procedures that will happen during your baby’s circumcision
Babies will obviously be awake during the surgery procedure. For the circumcision to happen these will be the possible procedures to be done:
- The baby will be placed on his back. He will be restrained with Velcro bands or other appropriate restraints for the baby.
- The doctor will clean the area of the penis with an antiseptic. Then, your baby will be injected with anesthetic to the base of the penis to lessen the pain.
- Sometimes, doctors may apply a cream pain reliever instead of injecting anesthesia.
- You may see that a doctor may use one of the three kinds of clamps or plastic rings for circumcision: the Gomco clamp, Plastibell device, and the Mogen clamp.
- The clamp or ring will be attached to the penis and the doctor will clip off the foreskin.
- Then, your baby’s penis will be applied with an ointment like petroleum jelly, then it will be wrapped with gauze.
- Your doctor will recommend you swaddle your baby after the surgery by wrapping him tightly in a blanket. Or, you could have your baby suck on a pacifier dipped in sugar water.
- Your doctor may also prescribe acetaminophen for your baby’s pain.
Usually, the procedure takes about 10 minutes or so, then after a few hours, you and your baby are ready to be discharged.
What happens after your baby circumcision procedure?
Of course, your baby will feel fuzzy and irritated after the circumcision. Be aware of holding him so you might not want to hurt your baby’s penis.
The tip may be sworn, and the penis may look swollen red, as Filipinos call it, nangangamatis. The yellow crust is also noticeable and it is fairly normal. Expect your baby’s penis to heal completely after 10 days.
Ways to remember when healing your baby’s circumcision
Washing your baby’s penis is also recommended as it heals. Change the gauze every diaper change.
Apply a pinch of petroleum jelly so the penis won’t be stuck on the diaper’s surface.
When the stool gets on his penis, wash the penis with warm water and baby soap to prevent infection. Always change the diaper often and loosely fasten it.
When to see a doctor
It is normal to see little blood on your baby’s diaper after circumcision. Minimal bleeding should stop after a few days.
But, abnormal bleeding with large spots of blood in the baby’s diaper is alarming. Seek medical attention if:
- Your baby’s penis swells longer than 3 days
- Yellow discharge is still present after 7 days
- Your baby has a fever
- Your baby has not passed urine within 6-8 hours
Why do babies get circumcised?
Circumcision is an elective procedure, meaning, it depends on the person when to undergo surgery at any time of their lives or not to undergo it at all.
Parents who choose that their baby sons be circumcised because they consider the health benefits of it, like a decreased risk of urinary tract infection during babyhood and later in baby’s life, against the risks of sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Other parents may choose circumcision for their babies because of the social construct the male gender should have.
In some cultures, circumcision is part of their arbitrary cultural or religious practices. According to history, for example, male newborns of Muslim and Jews people are mandated to have circumcision.
When is it too late for the baby to be circumcised?
Image from Shutterstock
There is no late timespan for the baby to have a circumcision. The problem is “when” should circumcision for babies not be done.
Parents should also consider that in order to have their babies circumcised, they should be healthy and stable. The following are the reasons why parents should delay their babies’ circumcision:
- The baby is born too early
- Baby was born with a family history of certain problems in blood or bleeding disorders
- The baby has particular congenital abnormalities
Circumcised baby vs. uncircumcised baby
While babies are incapable of deciding for themselves regarding circumcision, it is the parent’s consent that will be needed.
The parents should ask their baby’s doctor if it is healthy and possible for their baby to undergo a circumcision procedure. Take note of the following pros and cons of circumcision for babies, or to have your baby circumcised or not:
- Decreased risk of urinary tract infection (UTI)
- Lowered rates of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Protection against penile cancer
- No-worry on foreskin related problems and infections
- Side effects of circumcision
- A botched circumcision
- Baby’s pain during the surgery
- Some men account for pleasurable sex with an uncircumcised penis
Mommies, think of your baby’s circumcision as a health package. Do the necessary first steps before deciding about it.
If there will be no issues and health concerns, you may decide for him to have his circumcision. If there will be complications during and after the procedure, better ask your doctor and think of delaying the surgery.
After a few years, he may now be able to decide about his circumcision.
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore.
Additional information from Nathanielle Torre
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