When to have your son circumcised

24 March 2014

It’s perfectly understandable parents could be confused about when or whether to circumcise their sons. There are a myriad reasons to consider, including religion, culture, hygiene and social factors. Our experts weigh in on the topic.

According to the department of health, about a million males have been circumcised since its national circumcision programme was launched two years ago. General consensus among most medical practitioners is that if infants are circumcised before they’re 12 months old, they’re almost 10 times less likely to develop urinary tract infections. It also lowers their chances of penile infection, irritation and inflammation.

But despite the national circumcision drive, some parents are against the practice. “There is a growing lobby that argues that removing healthy tissue from a child, thereby permanently altering their bodies without their consent, is morally unacceptable,” says Dr Leigh Holloway from the local television programme Hello Doctor.

It’s always a good idea to consult a GP and discuss the issue before making a hasty decision. However, if you decide to circumcise your child, when is the best time to do it?

Best time to do it

Urologist Dr Shingai Mutambirwa says any age from eight days is relatively safe. DrHolloway agrees and explains, “Most children will not have a fully retractable foreskin at birth, but do as they get older, with the majority having a fully retractable foreskin by early adolescence.” This means the earlier the procedure is done, the better.

What does it entail?

Dr Mutambirwa says the procedure takes about 15 minutes but can vary from one doctor to another. “Generally, the data are in favour of 'cut and suture' and 'cut and glue' whilst use of constriction devices generally have more complications,” he adds. Discuss the proposed method with your healthcare practitioner and let them explain the reason for using it, the possible risks and consequences to you before the procedure. You have a right to all the information before making a decision.

Does it hurt?

The pain experienced after the procedure doesn’t necessarily differ for different ages, say most doctors. “When the local anaesthetic wears off, just like any skin cut, there will be a mild throbbing pain for a few days,” explains Dr Mutambirwa. “The only time pain at the operation site might get worse is when the patient gets an erection – including children who get at least two to three erections per night. A regular pain tablet or syrup will normally be given for a week after the operation to allay this [pain].”

When shouldn’t it be done?

Dr Holloway warns that infants with the rare medical condition called hypospadias (where the urethral opening is at the base of the penis) or a bleeding disorder shouldn’t be circumcised.

Top tips from Dr Mutambirwa:

Bearing in mind the HIV-prevention advantages of circumcision, this procedure should be done before the patient is sexually active.

If a man or child wants to go for traditional circumcision (initiation), rather get a medical circumcision done beforehand and just get the “training” that’s given.

-Koketso Mashika

Extra sources: kidshealth.org

Pictures: Sxc.hu

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