Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Circumcision

Questions and Answers

If our baby is a boy, my husband
wants him to be circumcised.
Will this be painful?

On a young baby the area of
foreskin is so minute that the
infant will hardly notice. A dressing
is applied immediately, so there
should be no infection.

My boyfriend is circumcised and
insists that it makes him a better
lover. Is this true?

There is no scientific evidence to
show that a man who has been
circumcised has a firmer erection
or a better technique than an
uncircumcised man.

I heard that a woman married to
a circumcised man is less likely to
get cervical cancer. Is this true?

This belief has been held for a
long time, many people arguing
that Jewish women have a much
lower risk of this kind of cancer
because their husbands are
circumcised. But two studies, one
American and one British, failed
to show any difference in the
incidence of cancer of the cervix
between wives of circumcised men
and wives of uncircumcised men.

What is female circumcision?

In girls, the clitoris—a small organ
situated in front of the urethra—
also has a hood like the male
penis, but there are no reasons for
its removal. “Female circumcision”
is a religious or cultural practice
common in some countries,
although it is considered barbaric
in the West. It may involve the
removal of the clitoris or the
sewing together of the vaginal
lips, or both. It makes intercourse
very painful for women, and a
woman has to be “opened up” for
child birth and resewn afterward,
causing terrible pain and a high
risk of infection.

Circumcision, the cutting away of the foreskin of the penis, is practiced the
world over, mainly for religious reasons. Although a safe procedure, the
operation is increasingly carried out only for medical reasons in the West
.

Boys are born with a sheath or hood covering the glans, or tip, of the penis. This is the foreskin, or prepuce, which extends from the skin of the penis. It reaches forward over the glans, then turns back onto the penis itself. In the nonerect penis, the foreskin has to be pulled back to expose the glans. Circumcision refers to a cutting away of the foreskin so that the glans is permanently exposed. In a baby it is a quick and almost painless procedure. In older children and adults an anesthetic is needed during the operation.


Religious reasons

Circumcision may be carried out for religious reasons or because of health or medical problems. Worldwide, the largest religious group practicing circumcision is Muslims. Circumcision is also practiced by Jews, preferably when a baby is between two and 10 days old. Orthodox Jews have their sons circumcised during religious ceremonies, when the boys are eight days old.


Circumcision and health

In the United States circumcision is performed principally as a measure to aid hygiene, because washing beneath the foreskin can be overlooked. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that routine circumcision is unnecessary. Nowadays, in the United Kingdom and many other countries, circumcisions are performed mainly for medical reasons.

The most common medical reason for circumcision is in the case of phimosis, or the inability to pull back the foreskin. Phimosis is more likely after inflammation of the glans and foreskin, a condition called balanitis. Circumcision in this case is best carried out at age three to five years, although the condition may arise later in childhood or in adulthood.

Paraphimosis is a condition in which a pulled-back foreskin cannot be brought forward over the glans. This may cause painful swelling of the penis tip. The patient may need to go to the hospital for a slit of the upper part of the foreskin, carried out under an anesthetic.


Aftercare

Removal of the foreskin leaves a raw area on the penis that requires daily care. In a baby, irritation from a wet diaper or the presence of infection in the urine means there is a risk that a small ulcer will form at the tip of the penis. The baby requires frequent diaper changes and more frequent bathing during the healing period. Local dressing of the sore area of the penis is usually advised by the doctor (see Sores). However, it is not necessary to dress the wound while it heals. Generally, the risk of infection is slight.

In an uncircumcised male,
the foreskin of the nonerect
penis covers the glans, or tip.
Circumcision exposes the glans
.

See also:Anesthetics; Erection and ejaculation;
Genital mutilation; Healing; Infection and infectious
diseases; Penis and disorders; Ulcers

-374-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Bronchitis 294
  • Brucellosis 297
  • Bruises 298
  • Bunions 299
  • Burn Center 301
  • Burns 303
  • Burping 306
  • Bursitis 307
  • Calcium 310
  • Cancer 312
  • Capillaries 318
  • Cardiac Massage 320
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 322
  • Cartilage 324
  • Cataracts 326
  • Celiac Disease 329
  • Cells and Chromosomes 330
  • Cellular Telephones 333
  • Cerebral Palsy 335
  • Cervix and Cervical Smears 337
  • Cesarean Birth 340
  • Chat Room 343
  • Chelation Therapy 345
  • Chest 347
  • Chicken Pox 349
  • Child Abuse 351
  • Child Development 354
  • Chinese Medicine 358
  • Chiropractic 362
  • Cholera 365
  • Cholesterol 366
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling 367
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 369
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 370
  • Circulatory System 372
  • Circumcision 374
  • Cirrhosis 375
  • Cleft Palate 376
  • Cloning 377
  • Clubfoot 379
  • Cocaine and Crack 380
  • Cold Sores 382
  • Colon and Colitis 383
  • Colonic Irrigation 384
  • Colonoscopy 386
  • Color Blindness 388
  • Color Therapy 390
  • Colostomy 392
  • Coma 394
  • Common Cold 396
  • Complexes and Compulsions 397
  • Conception 399
  • Congenital Disorders 401
  • Conjunctivitis 403
  • Constipation 404
  • Contact Lenses 406
  • Contraception 407
  • Convalescence 412
  • Convulsions 413
  • Coordination 414
  • Cornea 416
  • Corns 417
  • Coronary Arteries and Thrombosis 419
  • Cosmetics 422
  • Cosmetic Surgery 424
  • Coughing 426
  • Cough Syrup 427
  • Counseling 428
  • Index 431
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