New parents are faced with so many decisions to make for their newborn that it can sometimes seem overwhelming. Some decisions are clear cut: breastfeeding – yes, please! Sleeping on the stomach – definitely not! For parents of newborn baby boys, there is an additional decision to make regarding circumcision – should you snip or not?
Baby boys are born with a small hood of skin covering the head of their penis called a foreskin. Circumcision, a surgical procedure done in the first few days of life, removes a short portion (less than 1 cm) of the foreskin.
Before the circumcision, the baby’s torso is swaddled, a small amount of sweet solution is given for calming, and injections of numbing medicine are placed at the base of the penis. Some babies cry, but it is not uncommon for a baby to sleep through portions of the procedure! Afterward, Vaseline or antibiotic ointment is applied to the penis for seven to ten days to prevent the new skin from sticking to the diaper.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released new guidelines about newborn circumcision. The new policy statement takes into account extensive review of scientific research about the health benefits for men who are circumcised compared with men whose foreskins are intact.
For the first time, the AAP has concluded that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks. Benefits include:
- decreased risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life,
- decreased risk of penile cancer over the lifetime,
- decreased risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners,
- and decreased risk for circumcised men of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papilloma virus and syphilis.
Parents considering newborn circumcision should speak with their child’s doctor about the benefits and risks of the procedure. The decision to circumcise your child is solely yours. As with any medical decision you make for your child, it is important to feel well-informed and confident in your choice!
Kathyrn A. Cahill, MD
Meriter West Washington