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What is circumcision?

A circumcision is a surgical procedure to remove the skin covering the tip of the penis. It is fairly common for newborn boys, but is a more complex procedure for boys and adult men. Circumcision is often a religious ritual or a family tradition, or done for practical reasons, like easier personal hygiene or preventive health care. After circumcision there is a decreased risk of some infections, including HIV. There may be a medical need for circumcision if the foreskin is too tight. The procedure does not affect fertility, nor will it affect sexual pleasure for you or your partner.


What is the procedure for a circumcision?

Newborn circumcision is usually performed in the hospital nursery within 10 days after birth. The surgeon will inject an anaesthetic into the base of the penis or use an anaesthetic cream. A special clamp or plastic ring is then attached to the penis, and the foreskin is surgically removed. The penis will then be covered with an ointment, such as a topical antibiotic or petroleum jelly, and covered with gauze. The procedure usually takes about 10 minutes.

For older boys and adults, the procedure is slightly more involved, and can take from 30 minutes to an hour. After the foreskin is removed, the skin is cauterized or stitched back to the shaft. The procedure may be done under general anaesthesia and the recovery period will be longer.

How should I prepare for a circumcision?
Before circumcision, your surgeon will explain the procedure and discuss the risks and benefits.

Your surgeon will probably advise you to stop smoking and to stop taking aspirin, anti-inflammatories and certain other medications several days before the procedure. Be sure to arrange for transport to and from the clinic, since you may not be able to drive after the procedure.

Where will my circumcision be performed?

The procedure can be performed in the operating theatre if general anaesthetic is used or, for newborns, in a hospital nursery.

What anaesthetic will be used for my circumcision?
For newborns, circumcisions are performed under local anaesthesia, but may be performed under general anaesthesia for older boys and adults.
How do I recover from my circumcision?
Healing can take up to 10 days, and you may experience redness and swelling, and possibly some yellow fluid on the tip of the penis. The pain is usually mild and regular over the counter painkillers will be sufficient.

You can wash the penis as it heals. Wear comfortable but supportive underwear A day or two after surgery, you should begin trying to walk – slowly and gently.

For newborns, you should change the gauze every time you change diapers. Do this often, keep the diapers loose, and apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the tip of the penis.

Healing is usually uncomplicated, but your surgeon will tell you what to look out for.

When can I return to normal activities?
You should be able to return to work after about a week, but you may need more time to return to normal activities. Consult your surgeon before resuming other physical activity and exercise; this should take about four weeks, and you should wait about six weeks before resuming sexual activity.
What are the risks involved in circumcision?

Circumcision is normally a low-risk procedure, but with this procedure, like all other surgery, there is a low risk of post-operative infection, bleeding and swelling as well as possible side effects related to anaesthesia.

There may be a problem if the foreskin is cut too short, which is rare, or if it does not heal properly, or does not reattach to the end of the penis, which will require minor surgical repair.