Have these stages personalized and emailed to you: Sign up now

Circumcision: your questions answered

If you are considering circumcision for your baby, you can read this Q&A. Find out what circumcision is, how common it is, whether it’s available on the NHS and more.

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is the fold of skin at the end of the penis. The foreskin is normally loose in an unerect penis, and it can be gently pulled back. The majority of circumcisions are performed on babies and children. 

Is circumcision for babies common in the UK?

In the UK, most boys and men are not circumcised, unless they are from cultural or religious communities where this procedure is usual.

Does the NHS provide circumcision procedures?

Not usually, unless there is a medical reason for it.

What would be a medical reason?

At first, a newborn’s foreskin is attached to the head of the penis and over a period of a few years, it becomes detached, as the connective membrane naturally dissolves. Very occasionally, a boy might have a foreskin that remains tight, and which can’t retract easily. This condition is uncomfortable and can lead to infection and other problems.

Another reason might be that there are repeated inflammations of the foreskin and/or the tip of the penis. Usually, removal of the foreskin would be a last resort, after other treatments have been tried. Any medical reason why a newborn would require a medical circumcision would be very rare.

What happens during an infant circumcision?

Under local anaesthetic, the foreskin is cut, and any bleeding is controlled. The surgeon stitches the edges of the skin that remain, with dissolvable stitches.

Is circumcision painful for a baby?

It is likely to cause some discomfort for your newborn but the recovery is relatively quick. Pain and swelling afterwards is common, but this reduces after a few days.

Are there any health advantages to circumcision for children?

Current UK medical opinion is that there are no advantages to routine circumcision, and that the risks associated with it, such as bleeding and post-operative infection, while small, outweigh any potential benefits. There have been studies of routine circumcision in newborn boys in an attempt to establish health benefits. One review to examine the effect on the incidence of urinary tract infection concluded there was no evidence that circumcision prevented these.

Where can I get more information?

Your health visitor or GP may be able to discuss this with you. If you decide you wish to have circumcision for your son, without a medical reason, your GP may be able to refer you to a private practitioner. If you have religious reasons for choosing circumcision, your contacts in your religious community are likely to help.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and allow you to meet other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

Read more about circumcision on NHS Choices