Circumcision is the surgical removal of the layer of skin, called the foreskin, which covers the head of the penis. It is commonly practiced by many communities in Kenya, mostly timed at the time of transition from childhood to adolescence. But couples may choose to have their boys circumcised shortly after birth and before the mother leaves the hospital.
Newborn circumcision is a parental decision. There is no law or hospital policy that mandates the timing of circumcision. It should only be performed if the newly born boy is healthy, but must be postponed to a later date if the baby has any apparent medical problems. Recovery is faster following newborn circumcision, and complications are less compared to later childhood or adult circumcision.
As with any other surgical procedure, circumcision has potential risks. Complications may include bleeding, infection and scarring. If too much of the foreskin or too little is removed, further corrective surgery may be required. Appropriate processes must be in place to mitigate against such risks, and the surgery is best performed by a specialist peadiatric surgeon.
Once your baby boy has been circumcised, you’ll be advised on how to take care of him as healing takes place. The penis should be kept clean with mild soap and water. Frequent change of diapers prevents irritation and potential infection from urine and stool. Signs of infection include redness that does not go away, swelling, or fluid that looks cloudy. If you suspect an infection, immediate review of your son is warranted. The pediatric surgeon is best placed to give further advice.
You may choose to defer the circumcision till your son gets older. Some parents may want their sons to decide for themselves in the future if they would want to get circumcised. If that’s the case, keeping the penis and foreskin clean is vitally important. Do not try to pull back the infant’s foreskin, it may not pull back completely till about the age of three to five years. As your boy gets older, teach him how to effectively wash his penis. The foreskin should be pushed back in place once cleaned with soap and water.
Are there any health benefits resulting from circumcision? There are certainly solid hygienic reasons for circumcision. A thick white discharge can build up under the foreskin in boys and men who are not circumcised.
This can lead to bad odour or infection, and necessitates thorough washing of the penis as part of bathing routine. Circumcised boys have a lower risk of urinary tract infections, even though such risk is still very low in the uncircumcised. Research data suggests that circumcision is associated with a lower risk of HIV transmission. It may also help prevent cancer of the penis.
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