Too late to circumcise?
When does foreskin trouble indicate a circumcision should be considered, asks this 3-year old's mom.
I always knew if I ever had children, I wanted a boy. There's a saying 'if you have a boy, you only have to worry about one penis and with a girl, you have to worry about every penis in the world.' I had no idea that worrying about just the one penis would be so stressful.

The hospital we had our son at didn't offer circumcision at birth – something we only discovered after the fact and it didn’t bother us that much at the time, because leaving him un-circumcised meant that he was the same as his father.

Three years and some change later, the fact that he is uncircumcised is becoming problematic. Urinary tract infections are common, and the tip of his penis is often red and sore despite being cleaned properly in the bath every night.

His foreskin is very tight does not roll back at all and the opening of the foreskin is really small – so much so that our GP recommended that we attempt to roll back the foreskin ourselves during the nightly bath, and advised us that should this be unsuccessful, he’d he’d need a circumcision.

After some online research of my own, I’ve discovered that the retraction of the foreskin is (like all other childhood milestones) one of those things that happen in its own time.  During infancy, the foreskin is joined by a mucosal bond that occurs between the glans of the penis and the inner fold of the foreskin and it’s meant to protect the glans from wee, pooh and chafing during the nappy-wearing years.

The separation should, naturally, occur when the child is ready to leave nappies behind but there is no set age by which this must have occurred.

Different rates of development

It seems that each boy develops at a different pace, and retraction is not something that needs to be hurried or forced as by the time puberty hits the penis should have completed its development which means that the foreskin should retract on its own.

Much of the literature seems to agree – retraction is not something that should be done forcibly by any doctor or parent and that pulling the foreskin back before it’s ready can cause more damage than good. It can result in the tearing of the protective mucosal bonding between the glans and foreskin that can cause pain, bleeding and open the doors to infection and irritation. Repeatedly forcing back the foreskin can cause a build up of scar tissue, which could exacerbate the problem and make it even harder to retract the foreskin, or resulting in the foreskin being trapped behind the glans.

After a bit more reading, it seems that a foreskin that refuses to retract on its own is not a danger in itself; but if that foreskin becomes distended or 'balloons out' when he urinates, this could be cause for concern as it shows that the opening of the foreskin is too small to allow urine to pass properly – resulting in infection and/or pain during urination and forcible retraction/circumcision is usually then medically advised.

So here’s my concern: all of my own research into the matter shows that most boys will - by the age of 8 - have discovered that their penis can retract. Should the problem persist after that age, circumcision is the solution. 

Do we wait until it becomes more of a problem (if at all) later on in life, when he’s more aware of his penis and more likely to be fearful of doctors and surgery, or do we have him circumcised now while he’s still a toddler and before it becomes an emergency situation? Is it even necessary for him to be circumcised at all?

Have you experienced this with your uncircumcised son? Was the decision to circumcise a religious one, or did you have other reasons?

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