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Why you should circumcise your boy

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th September 2011 08:00 PM

WHEN the midwife announced to Jane Akulo, a second-time mother, that she had given birth to a baby boy, Akulo knew she had an important decision to make — circumcision! For some parents, the choice is simple because it is based on cultural and religious beliefs. For others, making the decision is not easy.

WHEN the midwife announced to Jane Akulo, a second-time mother, that she had given birth to a baby boy, Akulo knew she had an important decision to make — circumcision! For some parents, the choice is simple because it is based on cultural and religious beliefs. For others, making the decision is not easy.

By Agnes Kyotalengerire

WHEN the midwife announced to Jane Akulo, a second-time mother, that she had given birth to a baby boy, Akulo knew she had an important decision to make — circumcision! For some parents, the choice is simple because it is based on cultural and religious beliefs. For others, making the decision is not easy.

Dr. Doreen Birabwa, a senior consultant paediatric surgeon at Mulago Hospital, advises that circumcision be done soon after birth or in the first month of birth.
The advantage of doing it early is that the wound heals much faster.

The procedure

During circumcision, pain is controlled by inserting a pain killer into the baby’s rectum. The baby is then put to sleep. However, the baby may feel pain when it wakes up or when passing urine.

Birabwa explains that boys are born with a hood of skin, called the foreskin, covering the glans (head of the penis). During circumcision, the foreskin is surgically removed, exposing the end of the penis.

Why circumcise?

Though some people believe the foreskin is a very sensitive and vital part of the male anatomy, medical experts think it is redundant.

Dr. Herny Kiyimba, a general practitioner at Mulago II Medical Centre, says circumcision, when done early, prevents some medical complications, for example, phimosis, a condition where the skin adheres to the glans, making urine fail to come out well.

Phimosis may result into urinary tract infections (UTIs).
“UTIs are about 10 times more common in uncircumcised infants than in circumcised ones,” Kiyimba notes.

Circumcision also promotes good hygiene.
“It is difficult to keep uncircumcised penis clean, especially under the foreskin,” Kiyimba affirms.
Besides, penile problems such as irritation and inflammation are more common in uncircumcised children.

Circumcision is one of the ways of preventing HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. When circumcised babies become adults, the risk of developing penile cancer is low.

When not to circumcise

Dr. Ben Khingi, a consultant surgeon at Mulago Hospital, notes that the baby should not be circumcised if there is an abnormality in the formation of the penis or the urethra. For example, if the penis is crocked downwards or if the urine opening is not seen.

Complications

“Circumcision can result into irreversible damage, especially if sensitive parts like the glans or the urethra are cut off,” Khingi says, adding that this is common with traditional circumcision.
Significant bleeding may occur due to accidental cutting of the main vessels, causing severe anaemia, which may lead to death.

The healing process

It takes two to three days for the wound to heal if circumcision has been done perfectly and bleeding has been controlled.

It is important to keep the area clean to avoid infection. After a lighter plaster has been twisted around the wound, Khingi advises one to apply olive oil, allowing it to soak the dressing. The oil loosens the plaster, making it fall off within 24 hours. Salted water can be used to clean the wound before applying olive oil.

Khingi advises against immersing the child in water before the dressing falls off. He warns that peeling off the scar may deter the healing process.

When to see a doctor

Kiyimba advises one to notify a doctor if there is persistent bleeding, significant pain, fever, other signs of infection, such as swelling, discharge or the presence of blisters.

Why I circumcised my baby: We asked our readers about their experiences

Beatrice Kunihira, the mother of one-year-old Alex Ssemakula
Ssemakula was circumcised two weeks ago at a clinic near home. His wound healed in about three days. I first applied a tetracycline eye ointment on the wound, then later started applying herbal Vaseline. Ssemakula used to have problems with urinating. He would also hold and scratch his scrotum all the time.

Rebecca Natabwa, the mother of one-year-old Kenneth Busingye
Busingye was circumcised at two months at a mosque near home. Though the Gishu culture dictates that circumcision be done when the boy is older (22 years), I decided to circumcise him when he was a baby because babies heal faster. I used to apply an ointment after bathing him. His wound healed in a week.

Zainah Kisambira, the mother of one-year-old Ashim Kisambira
I took Kisambira for circumcision at a mosque when he was six months old. Though our religion necessitates circumcising a child as soon as it is born, I feared to inflict pain on the baby. Besides religion, I also felt circumcision was a way of preventing infections. I used to clean the wound using water mixed with salt. It healed within a week.

Compiled by Agnes Kyotalengerire

Why you should circumcise your boy

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