[If you do not see a blue menu bar on the right, click here.
You are at "The Issues: STD's/Complications/Caring for the Penis".]

Fear of the unknown is undoubtedly the strongest motivating factor in making the decision to circumcise. Many people have never seen a penis that is intact-- infant or adult-- mainly because those who are now adult were born during the period of the highest neonatal circumcision rates in this country.

"My decision needs no defending. I am secure with my decision. What I can say I could fear more [than circumcision complications] is what if I had not circ'd my new son...what would have happened to him when the urine backed up? Would he have survived the infection? How would I have dealt with him being in the hospital? All of that was prevented, without us even knowing there was a problem."-- A mother who circumcised her son out of fear of the natural penis.

"One of the reasons I circumcised was 'fear of the unknown' about teaching hygiene without, as you say, foreskin experience of my own. If I had known it was so easy (and if I had known how DIFFICULT it is with an infant circumcised penis to prevent adhesions - which of course the doctor didn't tell me but I found out the hard way), that alone would probably have changed my decision."-- Newdad2000

We've been told, "it's cleaner" to be circumcised, "it's easier" to be circumcised, "its better to be just like everyone else" when you're circumcised, "the circumcised penis is maintainance-free," etc. We've been "socialized" to believe, basically, that there is something inherently wrong with our baby boys' penises from the day they are born (if not before). We all just think that without circumcision, our babies' penises will be infected and "gross"-- at least, eventually, anyway. We learn about the natural penis through our friends, usually, not through our own experiences. Stories abound in gossip about "...my friend's friend who HAD to be circumcised..," and, "...my friend who had more yeast infections with her first, non-circumcised husband than she did with her second, circumcised husband...".

Anyone who has a son who is "intact" would, 99 times out of 100, tell you that there is nothing dirty, difficult, or doomed about their sons' genitals. With the circumcision rate down from a high of nearly 100% in the 1950's and '60's to now about 60% in 2002, more and more people are actually seeing that the intact penis just does not live up to the many myths that surround it. Unfortunately, however, there hasn't been much information on the care of the intact penis because previous generations were either mostly-circumcised and/or the care taught was to retract and "clean it out". (See "The Issues: Hygiene".) Doctors will tell parents to do this still today, which causes problems, instead of the other way around. (See "Doctors: What Do Doctors Know?" and the "Doctors: Intact Care Agreement".) In fact, a new study says that circumcised penises may be more prone to problems and also to sexually transmitted diseases.

The only care the intact penis needs is 'leave it alone'. Wipe only the outside; never allow anyone to retract the boy's foreskin. Here is some information that you may find helpful and reassuring about caring for non-circumcised boys. [See also "What Do Doctors Know?" in the "Doctors" section of the blue menu bar.] The November/December 2000 issue of Mothering Magazine has an excellent article by Dr. Paul M. Fleiss titled, Protect Your Intact Son: Expert Medical Advice For Parents A MUST read!

With what's been said by the medical profession in our lifetimes alone, its no wonder the majority of us still sign the circumcision consent form with little or no research into what exactly we are saying yes to.

"As an RN, I watched a couple circumcisions when I was a student and the policy in this hospital was to check the circ 20 minutes after the baby was returned to the nursery. When the nurse checked this particular baby, she found him blue and not breathing and his diaper full of blood. They worked on him and he was OK but had to be recirced to stop bleeding. I had never thought of circumcision to be a potentially life-threatening procedure." --RN in NY

While the majority of neonatal circumcisions go "well", the few complications that do occur are not simple. The most common complication is excessive bleeding, and after that is local infection. (Technically, one could say the circumcised penis itself is a "complication", as it is a raw wound for a week or two afterward and the way it functions is drastically changed forever.) Other complications include penile adhesions- the remaining foreskin reattaches and forms scar tissue- and infection. Also, pretty common is meatal stenosis, a narrowing of the urinary opening which occurs in about 10% of circumcised males.

In 1998, there was a big news story about a boy who died following his newborn circumcision; includes seven other new stories on circumcision complications, as well. In fact, deaths from circumcision are rarely recorded as such, but rather, cited as "hemorrhage", or some other issue which would not have happened, had the circumcision not taken place. The rate of complications is quoted as "1-2%". Out of a million+ newborn circumcisions every year in the U.S., there are more than just "a few" boys this is happening to.

See Miles' Story, Lucas' Story, and Micheal's Story for examples of what can go wrong.

Complications of Circumcision, with Photos

More detailed descriptions of various circumcision complications, with photos.

"When the foreskin is cut away it causes the baby considerable pain and leaves an exposed patch that has to be covered with a dressing. There is a serious risk of infection or bleeding. This is not a rare occurrence. A recent study revealed that 22 percent of circumcised babies suffered from either hemorrhage or some kind of sepsis. Also, the exposed opening at the end of the penis is at risk, especially from wet diapers, and frequently develops ulcers. In Great Britain alone, there are on average sixteen deaths a year as a result of this 'minor' operation."30 --Desmond Morris

"I circumcised my first son, and he had no real complications, but when the second was circumcised, the doctor cut ALL of the skin off his penis. I mean ALL of it. EVERY last bit of it. I'm not kidding. ALL of the skin was removed from his penis. ALL the way back to his body. I have medical records in his pediatrician's office to the fact. He was in pain for several months. He was discharged from the hospital in this condition. Lets admit it, lots of weird things happen in this world. I'm not exaggerating. He has, however, recovered. Needless to say, it was a horrific experience for us both. I am pregnant again, and will NOT even consider such a gruesome procedure. I still get emotional when I think of what I did to my newborn son. Please consider this procedure carefully, and do it only for strong religious convictions with a well qualified person." --DonnaHope 6/99

Which brings me to the fact that they now are doing "new" circumcisions. This is where the foreskin is removed to about halfway to three quarters of the way down the penis head instead of behind it. The reasoning is that leaving more skin should provide for non-tight erections in adult life. (One of the functions of the foreskin is to provide room for the longer/wider erect penis.) However, since the foreskin is prematurely separated from the penile head - having been torn off it during one of the first parts of a circumcision- it no longer functions like an intact foreskin. Because of its premature, unatural separation, and because the front end --which has special "bands" to keep it in its forward position and covering the end of the penile head-- is cut off, the circumcised foreskin can no longer keep itself clean. Ironically, it must be pushed back and cleaned under several times a day, and Vaseline dabbed on, for at least the first year of life to prevent both infection and adhesions. These adhesions are true adhesions which will not separate on their own without painful manual separation and/or steroid creams. I refer to this as a "self-fullfilling prophecy" of circumcision: The parent (and child) is getting everything they wanted to *avoid* through circumcision, by actually having it done.

"My son (2 months) is going on Friday to have his circ 'redone' so to speak. The pediatrician showed me that the foreskin has reattached to the penis. She gave me the emla cream to put on his penis an hour before I go to the office. She is then going to, for lack of better words, rip the foreskin off the penis. Then I'll have to retract it at every diaper change and put ointment on it to prevent it from reattaching. I'm worried about the procedure and about the emla cream. Will the emla harm my son's penis sensations? Will it numb him enough so that he doesn't feel the procedure? This has happened on both of my son's so I was wondering if it is common?" --Lisa H - Mom to Leland (5/8/97) and Corey (8/25/99) (Nov 1, 1999)

Unfortunately, this new method has lead many parents to think that their son's circumcision wasn't "done right". A subsequent visit to the doctor may then lead to the painful tearing back of the remaining foreskin, and sometimes the recommendation of a "re-circ". These "re-circs" not only take more and more skin of the penis, but they also carry all the same risks that the original circumcision did.

"I dont know if circumcision was right for my son! He's 5 and his penis has never looked right! For awhile I was convenced he had never been circumcised but my husband and mother-in-law argued with me and told me they saw it being done!

"For my sons physical, last year, his pediatrician took a look and decided he was going to tear the skin back more with no warning! He said he had been circumcised but the skin wasnt pulled back enough! My sons penis was infected for weeks and he has quite embarrassed and shameful, saying he was sorry for not having an okay pee pee! The doctor said it should come out of the skin more, when he's older, but it still looks the same and he's constantly pushing back on it! I dont know what to do, it doesnt look right and my son has suffered a tragic experience! My husband and I have decided to leave it be, until he's old enough to decide for himself! I regret putting him through any of the pain because he still doesnt look circumcised."-- Anon.

"I have two sons; both were circumcised. Sometimes I think [that I acted] against my better judgement [having them done]-- that it should have never been done. My 8-month-old looks as though he had never been circumcised. My doctor was in such a hurry that he messed up. Now Jacob may have to have another surgery to fix the mess that has been created. His penis does not look like a penis. Circumcision was not worth the pain to him for what he received.-- Heather

"Turns out my #2 son was cut too much and had to have stitches, poor lil guy! That must have been extremely painful and might end up causing problems later in life, from what I was told. I just had to have a sit-down talk with him about that possibility.. heh trying to explain to a 12 year old why it might hurt to have an erection when he really doesn't consider an erection a pleasurable thing.... yet. Eh, he seemed to understand and listened with great interest. I just hope nothing comes of it."-- Cynthia

"I'm not into telling anyone they should or should not circ... but I want to let prospective parents know about a very real complication which doctors don't warn you about, called "penile adhesions". My son was just diagnosed with this condition at his 6-month checkup. What happened was that some of the remaining foreskin healed together with the base of the glans, around the coronal rim, so that it cannot easily separate. The doctor forced its separation which caused his penis to bleed again almost like after the original circ. We also have to do this ourselves at home twice a day and apply vaseline to prevent it from readhering again. The doctor told us this is not unusual -- I wish she had told us right after the circ so that we could retract it during the initial healing (or better yet before the circ, while we still had time to say "No!") This forced retraction was painful for DS and I'm worried that there might be permanent scarring, although doc says this won't happen. What is especially frustrating is that a big part of our original reason for circ'ing was easier care an hygiene. We thought it was simply 10 ten days of healing and then it would be maintenance-free for life. Wrong! It turns out that during the infant period the circumcised penis actually requires MORE maintenance to prevent these adhesions. With an intact foreskin, you just leave it alone until it separates by itself."-- "Newdad2000"

"My son (Joshua, 7 months old) has lots of adhesions. I *THOUGHT* I was doing the right thing by circumcising him. I figured by having him get the "conservative" cut, it wouldn't be as bad. Well, guess what! He has lots of skin, it usually covers most of his glans (head of the penis). You'd think it would be a good thing, right? WRONG. His skin was seperated too early and mother nature was not allowed to take its course. Naturally, this skin is trying to re-adhere, like it's supposed to be while intact (the way nature intended). He has many small adhesions. The other night we noticed another one. This one is even worse than the others. Even though I gently pull the skin back at EVERY single diaper change he *still* has these adhesions. Will they get better? Who knows. Will they get worse? Who knows. For now I am just leaving them alone and applying A&D ointment to try to stop more adhesions (as I have been for the last 5 months!). The point I am trying to make here is this: DO NOT assume your child will be "fine". I always hear 'Well my son is circ'd and so is my husband and they are fine'. MANY are not! Many have minor problems that MANY parents do not notice because they are used to the appearance of the circumcised penis. Don't be blind to this people.... It happens. Too many times!! All this could be prevented when the penis is left ALONE. Don't go fiddling with something unless it NEEDS to be fixed. :)"-- Edna 12/7/98

"I have had the same problem also. I took my son Nicholas to an adult uroligist 2 times, 2 different pediatricians, and just 2 weeks ago, a pediatric urologist about his circumcision that we HAD done when he was born, but you'd NEVER KNOW it was done. He got an infection when he was about 3mos. old. And the adult urologist told me to keep pulling the skin back and clean real well. Well, I was under the impression that when a child is circumcised there is NO skin to pull back!!! Anyway, to make a long story short, the pediatric urologist said to just leave it alone and that it doesn't need to be re-done. He said he would re-do it though just to make it look cosmetically o.k. But that the new circumcision was un-necessary. So....we'll see what happens with time....but I am TOTALLY UNHAPPY with this circumcision and I don't feel that DRs. know what they're doing to babies when they do a circ."-- Donna Schulcz 12/3/98

"I don't think that my son's circumcision was done right. I think there was too much skin left on. Anyways, I think that some of the skin fused back together where the original cut was made. This happened once before and the doc had to pull back the skin and it was red and raw. I tried to do this myself and it is firmly on there. Do I have to get him re-circumcised or will this correct itself as he grows? My husband said that it doesn't look right, that there should be a ridge at the base of the head of the penis wher the cut was made, but the surface of the skin is flat where the cut was made, no ridge. That's why I think the skin fused back together. Has anyone experienced this? Does anyone have any info on this sort of thing? I'm sick about this, I think I have made the wrong decision in circumcising my son. I should have left him intact."-- Cindy 12/16/98

"I posted a few weeks ago about my loosly-circumcised son. To brief some of you, he had a hidden penis after circumcision, and his forskin kept attaching to the head. There was head exposed, but not fully. He has a smegma pearl right at the ridge where the forskin attaches to the head. I decided to just leave it alone and see what happens. I checked on it today (which is hard to do because he doesn't like his penis touched), and some is coming out. I really couldn't wipe it away. Just a hairline of the forskin has seperated enough to expose a very small amount of this white smegma. Now should I keep leaving it alone? Or gently work his skin back. It is extreamily hard to do anything to his penis, because he associates pain with someone else touching it. This makes me soooooo sad. He has had a several painful experiences with ripping his skin back, and constant pulling it back when it was raw. This all happened under 1 year, but he obviously still remembers. I had decided to just stop everything all together. I didn't even try and work his skin back to release this smegma pearl. It naturally is happening. I would have kept pulling my sons penis back if it wasn't for alot of you on the old circumcision board. I also would have ran my son to the Ped for this smegma pearl if it wasn't for you all here. THANK YOU for helping me spare my little boy from more pain. Any advise on what I should do or what should happen next would be great. It seems like the smegma pearl is kinda firm (maybe not), but from what I have felt it seemed that way. Do you think it will fully come out? Is this smegma causing the *natural* seperation of his foreskin from the head? Can this become infected? Thanks again." --Jacque

"Our second son was born with a rather small penis, in my opinion...which I feel may be the reason for the 'botched circ'. But, as with your son, there just isn't enough taken off. For that reason..he has a lot of skin adhesions. I am instructed to peal it back, a few times a day. It is soooo hard to do. He's 10 months old. He screams, cries..and will not lay still,poor baby. The last time I did it, it looked to have gotten very raw, and exposed new skin..which is what doc. wants. UGH. I just can't do it anymore. Because of this, the little opening is almost covered !! I worry about how he will be as he gets older. I hate to admit it, but if we hadn't had our first son done, we would have not done it again. I now feel guilt-- feel it was wrong for us :-( But... it's too late to do anything about it." --Tigger28 10/99

"I have an almost-1-month-old son. I am a single mom who only wanted what was best for my baby. But after reading all the stories on these boards the past few days, I wonder if I was wrong. Is it really that common to not do this? I blame me for not asking people before I said yes. Would I have done it differantly? I dont know. My son developed an infection-- a fairly bad one-- after his surgery. Gosh, I feel funny calling it surgery! I can't believe I took it so simple before. I never thought it was really a surgery until I read a few things. It is not the easy cut I thought... guess I should have watched more. Anyways he is fine now, but it really hurt us both to go through all this. Was it the circumcizing I wonder? Or just any surgery can get easily infected?

"I congratulate you all on being smart enough to ask and question this. Good for you all. I feel like I am not sure if I would still have done this if I knew what I have read here and other cirumcized boards/uncircumcized boards. I never asked very much. Not compared to what you all know. Thank you all for your responses. I hope to read more from others who maybe have been where I am. Well, maybe not. To be where I am, your son will have had to suffer. My son was hospitalized for a week. Alone. They would not allow me to stay with him. But I did. I kept saying I was going home. And I would leave for a bit, then come back. They told me I could visit as much as wanted. Like it's their baby. He's mine. And I feel like I put him in the hospital in the first place. I thank god I was able to continue nursing him. At first they told me I could not since he was on fluid nutrition. He was to save his strength to fight the infection and not try and learn to feed. He nurses well now. I take him back this week for his re-exam of his penis. It is still peeling and very red. But looks much better. I feel so bad for him. It looks itchy. He does not seem bothered by it now. Not like he did before. I wonder now how many babies are in pain from this and we think its fussyness? I did not think it could hurt so bad. The surgery alone was bad, but the infection after was worse. It looked worse at least. Now I feel sad, what if he was in pain the whole time? And I do hope my son never misses his forskin. I did not ever even think of that." --Jannelle and baby Jakey 10/99

"Help!!! Does my son need a third circ? If someone could please help, I would really appriciate it. My son is almost four months old. I had him circed to begin with because it is what my husband wanted. What a dummy I was to listen to him. When my son was about a month old, he got really chubby and his penis poked into the fat around his groin area: "burried penis". His first circ was totally botched and he had severe adhesions. He then had it fixed and had a little more foreskin removed. The problem is, the remainder of his foreskin has just about grown over the tip of his penis and he has trouble urinating. There is only a tiny opening for the urine to get out and I have to push on his penis to force the urine out of the hole. I can't even see the opening with the naked eye. I have to do someone because his urination is compromised. What should I do? I don't want any more foreskin removed but when his penis "pops out" when he looses his baby fat the foreskin is holding the penis in. I know it isn't good to break the adhesions but what choice do I have? If anyone can help me, I need it. He has an appointment on Monday with the doctor so I need advice. Thank you!!" --"atln" 12/99

"I want to share my sons circumcision story. PLEASE read if you are unsure about circ. I did not want to have Chase circumcised. My husband insisted on it. So.... he had it done. I heard him [my son] scream and cry and at that moment I knew they did not numb him like I wanted. They brought Chase out to me and said he was bleeding a little more than they wanted. They wanted me to wait until the bleeding stopped. A few minutes later I looked down and Chases diaper was red with blood. I ran over to the nurse and showed her. She took Chase and the Dr called for blood work. I asked why and they told me he could be a hemopheliac. The circ was at 10:00 am. I waited. Finally I asked a nurse the result of the test. She said the tests were fine. The obstetrician finally came and told me a urologist would be coming any minute to fix him. She turned and left. I ran over to the nurse and asked her exactly what was being fixed. She could not tell me anything. We couldn't hold Chase. We just could stand over top of him while he was crying and hold a blob of gauze on his penis to catch the blood. Well, they couldn't get ahold of the urologist. The Emergency Room doctor kept coming up to see if Chase had lost enough blood for a transfusion. Finally at 4:30, my husband went off. He demanded Chase be moved to another hospital and get 'fixed'. Right at that time the urologist walked in and wanted papers signed. Well, I wouldn't sign anything. I made my husband do it. I asked him [the doctor] what was wrong with Chase. He said I would have to take that up with the other doctor. He was just there to fix the problem. I started crying so hard. The anesthesiologist came and said the OB had cut chases blood vessels. Chase had to have the plasti-bell removed. He had stitches all around his penis and inside of it. Right now all is well. He is 2. I am praying for a girl because I fear my husband will want a boy circed and I refuse. Sorry this is so long. I just want you to know what can happen. I still cry when I think of my little baby with blood streaming from his pee-pee. Thanks for reading." --Jen (Dec. 16, 1999)

"When Edward was circumsised they used the plasibell method. I've since been told that this is outdated. Does anyone know? Well, the plastic ring was suppose to fall off after 5-8 days. On the 9th day I called & then took him in to the Dr's office. It had been put on way too tight & they had to cut the plastic off of him! They didn't give him anything for pain!!! He was screaming and there was a lot of blood (for a 2wk old.!!!) I felt sick. My husband held his little hand the whole time. He said that Edward squeezed his hand so hard he couldn't belive it! It took forever to get it off of him, or at least it seemed like forever! He got the 2 doctors & 1 nurse back though; he peed all over them!!! And missed my husband! He [Edward] is fine now, but it was so bad that if I have another boy I may not have him circumsised!!!" --anon.

"Dillon's circumcision healed up wrong on the top. It just grew to the shaft part instead of how it was supposed to so they have to go and clip it. I am NOT looking forward to it. I have never heard of the Plasibell method. That sounds so painful what poor little Edward had to go through. I almost didn't get Dillon circumsized because they didn't do it in the hospital and I had to take him to my Ob and I didn't want to hear him screaming. And now this!!" --Anon.

"Why did I check 'yes'? My son was circumcised and if there is nothing I regret more than letting him get "done". My husband wanted it so I went along with it. The hospital staff assured me that it was safe and 'normal'. It went ok until the day we brought him home. My sister in law was there at the house with us and she noticed a bit of red coming out of his diaper. I got scared and took it off and blood was pouring out of his penis. We immediately took him to the ER and they said they'd take care of it. The doctor told me not to worry because he's dealt with this often and knew how to fix it. Dealt with it often!?!?!?! They then told me it was infected. This was the same hospital that told me it was SAFE!!!! Is that what they mean by "safe"? I was so upset. Why didn't they tell me this could happen? What bothers me most is that I know I should have done my homework. My husband feels just as bad as I do. Alex was born 5/28/99 and is fine now but I can not erase the memory of it. My husband has a slight bend in his penis. It did not register with me why until I read up on what circumcision does. The doctor took to much skin of his penis when he was born. I'm afraid they did the same to my son. I was looking forward to breast feeding my son but he would not take. I feel I have missed out on an important bonding expirience with him. This is yet another point the hospital did not inform me on yet they asked me if I planned on breast feeding and I told them yes. Why didn't they tell me some babies won't breast feed after their circumcision? Alex is our first child and we plan on having two more. Needless to say if we have another boy, he will not be circumcised. I dont want to scare parents I just want them to do their homework so they don't go through the same thing my family did. Best wishes to you and your family. --Karen (1/24/00)

"I'm sure the doc thought he did a perfect job, and I don't recall the pediatrition ever making any remark, so he must have thought things were OK too.

"But as a toddler (I don't remember this, a urologist told me) my exposed glans rubbed against the wet diaper and formed an ulcer, which never fully healed until I was out of diapers. Two things happened: When the ulcer finally healed, scarring partially closed the meatis (meatial stenosis) and a bit of foreign matter got trapped in the healing tissue, and from this an inclusion cyst formed.

"The cyst grew as I did, but after age 18 I noticed that the cyst was still growing. At age 25 I had it removed. The urologist told me that I had a stenosis, and opened it up at the same time (the cyst was just below the opening, on the underside of the glans). So I went around with three stitches in my glans for a week. Not fun.

"A serious problem? No, not really. But considering that the operation would never have been necessary if I had not been circumcised in the first place, enough to complain about."-- Neal

"[My husband] and I were both with Casey when he was circ'd, this time dh stayed in the waiting room and I was in with Lucas. He wasn't numbed as much as I had hoped AND he was still bleeding last night, so I had to take him into the ER and they held pressure on it for almost 30 minutes before having to resort to Zinc Oxide to get it to stop! )0; My head was pounding ALL day long from the stress.... Jen, Depending on the kind of clamp the doc uses, your dh should probably NOT be in the room for the circ. If the doc uses the Mogan, then it won't be so bad, but the Gomco is kinda gruesome and a lengthy procedure..... we can discuss this via email if you'd like..... I think you will go into labor very soon, as you sound like you are ready......by the fact that you said that you weren't too disappointed about no change." -- Karen

"I've had 3 boys so far and we've never been in the room when they did the circ. I don't think they have a rule against watching it, but think it's just something they don't expect you to want to watch. They just take him and do it and then bring him back afterwards. Funny thing is, they boys have always seemed to be perfectly content by the time they come back to me. I've never had one come back screaming or crying (thank God). By the way, you are right about the shots. The first time you have to take the baby for shots (actually, EVERY time you have to take the baby for shots) you will cry more than the baby does. Be prepared." --Carla H.

"Yes, and doctors also give awful and stupid info to those of us with circed sons too. My second son had adhesions and they told us we needed to break them now. They tore his penis skin back and it got all infected. It happened again. They blamed us and did it again. My son screamed and was in agonal pain. I remembered this board and posted. I finally got some decent info and took it to my doctor. She disagreed and said it was all wrong. So I got a new doctor and he agreed and said my old doctor was totally wrong. She caused my son so much unneeded pain and suffering. My new doctor tried the info Dennise sent me and read the stuff she sent by some educated doctors. We have used the cream she told us about with great sucess for my sons circ problems. My older son had too much skin removed and our doctor said he may have problems and need the same cream later on. Circ is not a cure all and really only causes problems that nature already cured with the foreskin." --Jennifer (4/2001)