The Basics

Circumcision is a permanent surgical procedure for males to remove the foreskin (a fold of skin that covers the tip of the penis). This procedure is often done right after birth. In some cases, however, this procedure may be done on adults either by choice or to treat medical problems of the foreskin.

Circumcision is usually not medically necessary. Parents may decide to perform this procedure out of cultural, religious, or personal reasons. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend circumcision as a routine procedure for newborn males.

Other marginal benefits of circumcision may include:

  • better hygiene
  • decreased risk of urinary tract and sexually transmitted infections
  • lower risk of penile problems or cancer
Circumcision being performed on a baby boy.
Circumcision being performed on a baby boy.

Risks and precautions

In general, surgery and the use of anesthesia come with some risks that are associated with factors like your health condition and what the surgery involves. Side effects are very rare but can include trouble breathing, reactions to the anesthetic, bleeding, infection, scarring, and death.

Circumcision is usually a straightforward and safe procedure. However, there are some risks of complications or side effects, including:

  • infection (including fever, pus, or sores)
  • injury to the penis
  • pain and irritation
  • problems with the urinary tract including changes in frequency of urination
  • prolonged bleeding (continues beyond the first couple of days after the procedure)
  • scarring
  • swelling of the tip of the penis

Get immediate medical assistance if you experience any of these complications or side effects.

Talk to your doctor if you are worried about any of the symptoms or side effects you (or your child) may experience after this procedure.

It is important that you understand all the risks of complications and side effects of the procedure, and what you or your doctor can do to avoid them. Make sure that your doctor is aware of all your concerns.

Before the procedure

It is important that you fully understand what the procedure involves beforehand. Ask your doctor to explain the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of the procedure, and don't be shy to probe further until you are comfortable with your doctor's responses.

If the circumcision is being done under general anesthesia, you (or your child) may not be able to eat or drink before the procedure; follow the timing that your doctor recommended. In general, people are advised to not eat for 8 hours before the procedure; however, you may continue to drink clear liquids until 2 hours before the procedure.

If you (or your child) are taking any prescription or over-the-counter (non-prescription) medications, supplements, or herbal products, make sure you inform your doctor or pharmacist. Ask them whether it is necessary for you (or your child) to stop taking any of these medications and products before the procedure. It is also important to tell them if you (or your child) have allergies to certain medications or have certain medical conditions.

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The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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