Newborn Q & A Should my boy get the snip?
Q:I’m about to give birth to my little boy and I’d really like to find out a bit about circumcision. My husband is not circumcised, and he’s not keen on giving our son the snip, but I’ve heard that it is better for little boys to be circumcised. Is this true?
A:Simon answers: According to the new Child Care Act in South Africa, it is not permissible to circumcise boys under the age of 16 unless for medical or religious reasons. Medical reasons for circumcision include: • Phimosis A tight foreskin that does not retract over the head of the penis. This can cause obstruction to urine flow and lead to bladder infections, with an increased risk for frequent infections under the foreskin. • Hypospadias The opening of the urethra does not appear at the tip of the penis but rather along the underside of the head of the penis or the shaft. • As a strategy to prevent sexually transmitted diseases It is well known that uncircumcised men transmit HIV easier than circumcised men.
Unless you have a religious reason or a medical reason you should not have your son circumcised. The Act has been put in place to preserve the right of the child to choose. If your son wants to be circumcised he can decide that for himself when he’s older than 16.
A common reason that parents consider circumcision is if the dad is circumcised and they want their son to look like him. This is a non-issue. One day the question will arise as to why he looks different, and one simple explanation will remove all mystery: “Dad was circumcised and you weren’t.”
The best time to circumcise a baby is in the first two weeks. The procedure is simple and is done under local anaesthetic with someone holding the baby still. There is no pain during the procedure. The recovery is quick and the baby will be comfortable from the next morning. The wound will heal in a few days. After the newborn period things become a little tricky, and a general anaesthetic in an operating theatre is necessary. So you may as well wait, if you can, until the child is older than three years when the anaesthetic is easier. Circumcision has a mythical aura that it’s extremely traumatic and painful if not done early in life. This is not true and teenage boys handle circumcision very well. They are in a little pain and discomfort for a few days, as with any operation, but with loose clothing and good pain relief they cope very easily.
All circumcisions should be performed by qualified and skilled surgeons operating under sterile conditions. YB
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Dr Simon Strachan Paediatrician