How painful is circumcision for babies - and is it safe?
Even if baby boys are given anaesthesia prior to the procedure, does it still hurt to get circumcised?
Circumcision is a procedure viewed as a rite of passage to puberty in many cultures. However, more and more parents are opting to have it done while their son is still a baby, often to avoid future pain. But does it hurt to get circumcised even if it's done during infancy?
Circumcision is the surgical procedure of separating excess foreskin from the head of the penis (or glans) forcefully before cutting it off. Some do it for religious or cultural reasons, while others opt for the procedure for hygienic or medical purposes.
However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), "the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision."
Even if baby boys are given anaesthesia prior to the procedure, does it hurt to get circumcised regardless?
One mum blogger took to Instagram to share the reality of infant circumcision. In the post, which earned mixed reactions, the blogger highlighted just how painful circumcision can be.
A study published in the Paediatrics & Child Health Journal found that it does hurt babies, even with anaesthesia. What's more, another study published in Pediatrics found that only 45% of doctors use an anaesthetic when circumcising infants.
Normally, a baby is strapped down with a Circumstraint, or an apparatus with velcro cuffs to secure a baby's hands and legs. The doctor will then apply antiseptic to sterilise the area. Then, doctors can apply topical anaesthesia, which is as much as you can give babies, as sedating them would be risky. However, some studies claim local anaesthesia is also a safe option.
Because of this, they still can feel pain. To access the head of the penis and the inner foreskin, a doctor uses forceps to widen the tiny opening. Some parents and physicians view the act as "barbaric," while others believe it is a necessary part of life.
Whatever you believe, one thing's for sure: no parent wants to see their child in any pain.
Though preferences vary among doctors, what's certain is that circumcision causes pain and stress to newborns.
Researchers at Group Health Inc. and University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development found that newborns "cry vigorously, tremble, and in some cases become mildly cyanotic [having blueness or lividness of the skin, caused by a deficiency of oxygen] because of prolonged crying" during circumcision.
Some studies even claim babies remember the pain that comes with circumcision. It also rewires how their brain responds to pain in the future.
Infant circumcision is a decision you must make with the help of your child's paediatrician as early as possible. Note that in some cases it can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in young boys. Circumcision can also prevent STDs or penile cancer in adult men.
If you do decide not to have your son circumcised, rest assured that this has no bearing on their future health or hygiene. Because cleaning an uncircumcised penis is pretty easy. To learn more, read this article.
To minimise pain during circumcision, make sure to consult your child's doctor as to the safest level of anaesthesia for newborns.
Though pain is an unavoidable part of the procedure, it doesn't have to be unbearable for your baby.