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HealthInfo Canterbury

Circumcision in boys

The foreskin is a mobile, nerve-rich structure at the end of the penis. It has protective and sexual functions.

The operation to remove the foreskin is called circumcision. While once very common, circumcision is now hardly ever done in New Zealand, and babies are very rarely circumcised.

Medical experts do not recommend routinely circumcising healthy babies. All operations have risks, and for circumcision, the risks outweigh any possible benefits.

Most circumcisions are done for religious or cultural reasons. Sometimes boys need to be circumcised for medical reasons such as if the foreskin becomes too tight (a problem called phimosis) and medical treatment fails, but this is uncommon.

If your child needs to be circumcised for medical reasons, your GP will refer you to a paediatric surgeon or urologist. The public health system will pay for this. If there is no medical reason, you will have to pay to see a private paediatric surgeon or urologist following a referral from your GP.

Circumcision should only be done by a trained doctor who can deal with any complications. Appropriate pain relief should be used. Circumcision should be done in sterile conditions in a safe, child-friendly environment.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Paediatric Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed June 2019.


See also:

Penis and foreskin problems in children

Tightness of the foreskin (phimosis)

Page reference: 63026

Review key: HIPEN-13872