The benefits of male circumcision fall into several categories, broadly:
Separately, a moral and ethical debate exists in respect of the circumcision of minors. Should parents be able to consent to the circumcision of their child? On medical grounds there is little question since parents make many medical decisions for their children, but the religious aspect is more contentious. This debate has recently flared up in many European countries (see, most recently, our Germany page), but the right to circumcise has always won out.
If you accept that circumcision is the best thing for your son, then infancy is the time to do it. Circumcision in infancy maximises the medical benefits and minimises the complexity of the surgery. Quite why complications are lower at this age is unclear, but it is a fact. See BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:20.
There are sometimes reasons why circumcision needs to be left until later, particularly if there is any abnormality of the penis. Such cases are rare, and are dealt with on our Contraindications page.
However, circumcision pre-puberty remains a fairly simple procedure. Many circumcisions done at this age are performed for cultural or religious reasons, but many are also done because it has become clear that a child has a problem foreskin. In such cases it is definitely better to see to the problem before puberty, but it is also vitally important that the boy understands and agrees with what is being done. If he does not want it, it is far better to leave it until later.
For the United Nations / World Health Organisation / UNAIDS view of neonatal and child circumcision, please read their publication 'Neonatal and child male circumcision : a global review' published April 2010.
Once puberty has commenced, circumcision becomes a more complex procedure - the parts concerned are larger, and erections rear their head. Many (maybe most) circumcisions in this age group arise as a matter of medical necessity, due to phimosis discovered when sexual activity commences. This can be embarrassing for the boy, since he will have to explain the problem to his parents, but it is still commonplace and no cause for concern. Parents of teenagers should always try to make it easy for their children to talk about sexual matters.
Circumcision as an adult is a perfectly straightforward procedure. Depending on your age, erections may be less pressing than when you were a teenager, which helps. (Anti-erection medication, for adults and teens, is less that 100% effective, and the best approach is to sleep hunched up in a foetal position.) Most of the contributors to the original Circlist group and to this site were circumcised as adults and their opinions were and are 100% positive - see our Preferences and Experiences page .
For many men this will be just a matter of personal preference - their parents didn't have them circumcised, but they want to be. In other cases it may be because phimosis is present and was not dealt with earlier. Many men from conservative Christian or puritanical backgrounds find it impossible to raise such issues in their teenage years, and may even not discover that they have a problem until their wedding night.
Infections under the foreskin - balanitis or sexually acquired infections such as thrush - are also best dealt with by circumcision. This is particularly important if a man develops diabetes. The presence of sugar in the urine encourages infections under the foreskin which can become quite serious and lead to acquired phimosis. Circumcision is the best, and often the only, remedy.
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