Circumcision is rarely performed on babies in the UK but some parents do choose to have the procedure for religious or cultural reasons. One of the common questions that parents have about circumcision in babies if whether there are any medical benefits associated with the procedure. We wouldn’t recommend baby circumcision for medical reasons but there is some evidence that it can have some benefits when children grow up.
What is Baby Circumcision?
Circumcision is a procedure to remove the foreskin that covers the end of the penis. The modern circumcision procedure doesn’t usually involve any cutting when it is performed in babies. Instead, a specially designed device is fitted to cut off the blood supply to the foreskin. We use a plastic ring called the Plastibell for this procedure. Once the blood supply has been cut off, the tissue will be starved of oxygen. The cells in the foreskin will die and it will drop off in about 10 to 12 days.
Medical Benefits of Baby Circumcision
Circumcision removes the foreskin so that the head of the penis remains exposed at all times. The main medical benefit of this is that it can make it easier to keep the penis clean. Some boys and men can find it difficult to clean under the foreskin, which can enable bacteria to build up and cause infections. Boys who have been circumcised have a lower risk of infections such as balanitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs). However, these infections are relatively rare even without circumcision. Only about 1% of uncircumcised boys will develop a UTI during their first year.
The removal of the foreskin may also help to reduce the risks of certain sexually transmitted infections. This is also because the penis is easier to keep clean and germs are less likely to remain trapped after sexual intercourse. Men who have been circumcised are less likely to be carriers of HPV (the virus associated with cervical cancer) to their partners. Circumcision can also reduce the chances that a man will contract infections such as HIV.
Although there are some medical benefits to baby circumcision it is important to be aware that they are limited. Good hygiene can be just as effective at preventing infections from developing under the foreskin and using a condom is a much more reliable way of preventing the spread of STIs. It is also important to be aware that being circumcised only reduce the risk of men contracting STIs from their partners when they are taking the penetrative role. It won’t prevent them from spreading the infections to other people if they do catch an STI.
Why Isn’t Baby Circumcision Common in the UK?
Unlike some other countries such as the US where 55-65% of boys are circumcised, the UK does not have a tradition of baby circumcision. It is rare for parents to choose to have this procedure. Most of the parents who want to have their babies circumcised in the UK are from countries like the US where circumcision is more common or are followers of a religion like Islam or Judaism that recommends the procedure.
Although there are some potential health benefits to baby circumcision, there are also some risks involved with the procedure. For example, it is possible for an infection to develop after the procedure, which could cause serious complications if it is not treated promptly. Doctors in the UK would generally advise against having a procedure like circumcision when it isn’t medically necessary.
Baby circumcision is very rarely needed for medical reasons. The foreskin is usually tight at this age and only becomes looser as boys grow up. Medical circumcision may sometimes be recommended for older boys if there is an issue with the foreskin such as failure to retract by puberty or recurring infections. However, most boys won’t need to have their foreskin removed.
If you are considering baby circumcision for cultural or religious reasons then you should discuss the pros and cons with an experienced doctor. You can make an appointment at the London Children’s Surgery to learn more about the procedure and how it is performed. We will enable you to make an informed choice about your child’s care.