What is male circumcision?
Circumcision is a relatively simple operation in which a male’s foreskin – the retractable piece of skin that covers the head of the penis – is surgically removed. The foreskin is freed from the head of the penis and, in newborns, quickly clipped off. In adults, the foreskin is removed with a scalpel, and the process takes considerably longer. Circumcision is usually done for religious, social, medical, or cultural reasons.
Circumcision in children
Child or neonatal circumcision is usually performed for religious, hygiene, or health reasons. It is done using simpler techniques and the recovery period is typically shorter than for those performed in adulthood.
For children, infancy is the best time to circumcise, and most religious traditions suggest an early circumcision. The Plastibell method works best when a child is circumcised between one and three months, and the International Medical Corps (IMC) has recommended this age for more than a decade.
Children over the age of three months can still be circumcised as it is a routine procedure that is generally minor and well-tolerated.
Circumcision in adults
Circumcision is less common in adults and is usually performed for medical, health, or aesthetic reasons. Evidence has indicated that circumcision lowers the risk of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that circumcision reduces the risk of contracting HIV. They do, however, note that it only offers partial protection and advise that other barrier methods continue to be used.
Circumcision can also reduce the risk of certain conditions, including balanitis, phimosis, and paraphimosis.
The recovery period in adult circumcision is longer than that of children.
How to prepare your child for circumcision
When parents are considering circumcising their child, it is important to know what options are available. For cultural reasons, many opt for traditional male circumcision as it is regarded a sacred rite of passage intended to prepare initiates for adulthood. The circumcisions in initiation schools are typically performed by trained practitioners who are not necessarily health professionals. The safety of traditional circumcisions has often been called into question, as many result in complications requiring medical intervention.
Medical circumcision, on the other hand, is performed quickly and safely by medical professionals in a hygienic, sterile environment. In medical circumcisions, adequate anaesthetic is used to ensure that the procedure is as painless as possible. Post-surgery pain relief and aftercare advice is also provided, ensuring a healthy, pain-free process throughout.
According to recent studies, over half a million medical circumcisions were conducted in South Africa in 2019, just under half of which were in boys aged 10 to 14.
Regardless of the type of circumcision you choose for your child, it is essential to prepare them for the procedure.
For children under the age of six, doctors recommend using a minimal, but specific, explanation. This is because this age group still thinks in very literal terms, and any nuance could cause unnecessary fear and panic. It has also been found that visiting the Clinix hospital and staff beforehand can help reduce the child’s anxiety.
For boys ages seven to ten, it is suggested that parents offer a brief, simple explanation and anticipate that the child will have questions about the procedure. This age group would also benefit from visiting their nearest Clinix hospital before the procedure.
Older children and teenagers are mostly likely to benefit from hearing the explanation from the medical professional who will perform the procedure themselves, or from reading the information that is provided by Clinix. If they are accurately informed and have a realistic expectation of what the procedure entails, it will help reduce any anxiety they might have around the process.
Regardless of the age of the child, being in a safe, hygienic environment with the support of calm parents will help them cope best with what is to come before, during, and after their circumcision.
Visit your nearest Clinix hospital to talk to our specialist doctors about the best course of action for your child’s circumcision.