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Circumcision 101: What to Expect

The decision to circumcise your newborn son is a personal one, sometimes based on religious or family beliefs. Your baby's health is another major concern, with the American Academy of Pediatrics noting that the benefits outweigh any risks. Understanding the procedure and the healing process can help you better care for your baby.

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Surgical Procedure

The surgical circumcision typically is done in the first few days after birth. The doctor will remove the foreskin at the end of the baby's penis with surgical cutting tools. Your baby's pediatrician, your obstetrician or your family's doctor will perform this procedure in the hospital. If you're unsure if you want to have your baby circumcised, you may choose not to have this procedure done immediately after birth. However, the surgery may be more complicated or painful for your baby the longer you wait

Easing the Pain

The doctor will place a topical anesthetic cream on the area to numb your baby before beginning or use an injectable numbing agent. According to the KidsHealth website, if you choose to wait until your baby is older to circumcise him, the procedure may require general anesthesia. Before the doctor begins, he may insert an acetaminophen suppository into your baby's rectum to help with the pain.

Religious Tradition

The bris — or circumcision ceremony – is a traditional Jewish event that is done at home or in the synagogue. Instead of a doctor circumcising the baby, a mohel, a Jewish man who may be a rabbi but is well-trained in the medical aspects of circumcision, performs the ritual. Often the 8-day-old baby is given wine to ease the pain.

After the Fact

Following the surgical procedure the skin on your son's penis may look raw or even have a yellowish tint. The doctor may place a small bandage on the area. The incision area requires care and cleaning, making it necessary to remove the bandage and change it during diapering. Avoid rubbing the area with baby wipes, which may irritate the sensitive skin. Instead, clean your baby's genital area with warm water.

RELATED: To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise

Signs of Problems

Even though it's normal for a newly circumcised baby's penis to look irritated after the surgery, persistent or worsening redness means it's time to call the doctor. Other signs that may indicate a problem include persistent bleeding, a fever or pus-filled blisters and discharge. Call the pediatrician immediately if you notice any of these signs or if your baby hasn't urinated within 12 hours of the surgery.

Image via Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images

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