Protecting the penis

Thought that might get your attention.

I wasn’t sure I was going to blog about this, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt it needed to be shared.

Last week I took Julian to the doctor for his 12 month check-up. Other than the cold he seems to have caught from his big sister and daddy, he did very well. He measured 32 1/2 inches tall (95th percentile) and weighed 24 lbs. 8 oz. (50th percentile). The exam was going smoothly until the part where the doctor opened up his diaper.

Some history here, for those unfamiliar with the state of my son’s penis (uh, that was odd to type), Julian is intact, as in not circumcised. If you’d like to read about how Jody and I came to that decision, see the infamous “The Circumcision Post.”

Anyway, upon opening up Julian’s diaper, the doctor proceeded to retract Julian’s foreskin a bit so that the head was exposed. She had never done this before and I had no reason to suspect she was going to so I didn’t launch into the whole “He’s not circumcised. Please don’t mess with his penis” diatribe. I just stood there, rather in shock at what had just happened.

Julian began crying shortly thereafter, though I don’t believe it was because of what she did with his penis. He was tired and probably just sick of being examined. So I picked him up and comforted him all the while wondering what the hell just happened, but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t ask why she retracted his foreskin. I was like a deer caught in the headlights. And I left the doctor’s office feeling like I had allowed my son to be violated and that I’d failed him.

A few days later, I posted a message to one of my Yahoo Groups – a group of friends I have known for the past three-plus years, explaining what had occurred and asking them what the doctor may have been doing and also confessing my guilt of feeling like I’d failed to protect my son.

A bit of trivia for those of you unfamiliar with uncircumcised penises – the foreskin should never be forced to retract before it is ready. Any retraction of the foreskin before natural separation has occurred, as early as age three, but as late as early adulthood, can cause irreparable damage through bleeding and the formation of adhesions.

One of my friends, who is a former physician’s assistant, pointed out that the doctor may have retracted the foreskin slightly just to see if it was clear of irritation, and to see that the urethral opening was centered.

Another mentioned that before her child’s doctor examines her son’s penis (which included gently retracting it as far as it will naturally retract), she first lets her know what she is going to do.

Another retold the story about when her son’s doctor forcibly retracted his foreskin (and he had been circumcised) to the point that it bled and caused him great pain. She has since changed doctors and reminds the doctor before each visit that he is not to touch the child’s foreskin.

Still another mentioned that her doctor gently slightly retracts both of her sons’ foreskin to look at the boys’ urethra. However, she also brought to my attention a document called the “Intact Care Agreement” that states that even gentle stretching of the foreskin is too much and there is no reason to touch a boy’s penis during an exam.

Each also mentioned that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for what happened. We can’t protect our children all the time, but when something does hurt them, we can prevent it from happening again. It was that bit of advice that made me decide I should blog about it in hopes that I might help someone else.

I looked up the Intact Care Agreement online and found this – an agreement that the parents and health provider can sign and then have on record at their doctor’s practice.

While I’m left slightly confused as to what truly is the proper care for an intact penis, I think it is probably safe to say that in the vast majority of situations, there is no need for a doctor to try to retract the foreskin at all. I don’t feel that what Julian’s doctor did hurt him, but I don’t know that it was really necessary either. I do intend to talk to her about it since I’m going in for my yearly exam (also with her – she’s a family practioner) at the end of the month. I may or may not ask her to sign the Intact Care Agreement, but I am going to mention at every doctor’s visit that the doctor MUST ask me before touching my son’s penis. I think if she would’ve told me what she was going to do and explained why, I would’ve taken the whole situation much better. But because it was such a surprise to me, and because I remember reading time and time again that no one should retract a child’s foreskin except for the child himself, it took me very off-guard and left me feeling like I was to blame.

I guess the moral is live and learn and then spread the word so that others may benefit from the knowledge as well.

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28 thoughts on “Protecting the penis

  1. Thank you for posting this! We also made the decision to leave our son intact but I am quite clueless about male genatalia. I have luckily joined a few online groups so I can learn more, and hopefully protect my son from mistakes such as the one you describe, but it’s definitely important to spread the message as more and more parents are choosing not to circumcise!

  2. I am so grateful that you posted this.
    We never contemplated circumcising out baby boy, but after having twin girls I know next to nothing about about the do’s and don’t's of a penis. Your post has sent me on a steep learning curve and I know my son will be the better for it!

  3. OhmiGod…. I have two boys (9 and 5), both circumcized (me, not in favour; hubby, in favour, also circumcized- I deferred) and your story terrified me. I just had a vision of me, in my complete penile ignorance, yanking back baby foreskin and forever damaging precious willie… I will note your story for future reference with any babies with penises, intact… I’m right now going to ask my sister what-up, who has boy child, intact.

  4. Our doctor did the same thing claiming the skin was too tight. I looked at her and decided that a)we were not seeing her again b)that arguing with her was going to get me no where fast

    It was crazy.

    Great post Mama…and your right we cannot always protect them but we can always try.

  5. I am so proud of you for posting this. While I have girls, I too would have felt a bit violated on my child’s behalf. I have always read and heard the same thing regarding not retracting a penis.
    Stick to your guns…and thank you for blogging about this: it will help so many others.
    xoxo
    http://leighsteele.wordpress.com

  6. This is a great post! My hubby and I were in disagreement about circumcision. We ended up getting my boys circumcised. I have never been happy about it. Everything went fine with baby #1, but baby boy #2…we’ve had constant problems with the foreskin re-adhesing. He has had infections, LOTS of pain, he points to his pee-pee and says and signs Boo-Boo. This made me horribly sad. The Ped. told me he had a penile adhesion and it would probably come apart later on in life when he got an erection, etc… But, she told me to gently pull the foreskin back after his bath. Without my help, his foreskin did retract and he was in tremendous pain, raw, bleeding, etc… I felt so sorry for him. I called a Urologist to get a 2nd opinion. Zachary was almost healed by the day of our appt and that doctor totally blew me off! Ugh. I’m hoping that it does not keep re-occurring b.c the Urologist said the only thing we can do is re-do the circumcision…which is a last resort for me! I wish we’d never had him circumcised, and I think my Hubby feels bad that he forced the issue now that we are having problems. My point is, that the penis was designed perfectly to do what it needs to do. If we leave it alone it will happen naturally in most cases. Now, that we’ve intervened we’ve caused all sorts of problems and unnecessary pain for my little guy. :-(

  7. Sigh. I still wish I knew what was right! I do think the “don’t ever touch the penis” school may be too extreme. But I also don’t want harm done to my sons!

    Let me know what your doc says!

  8. Oh, I had a very similar experience! Except, (thankfully) the nurse was telling me how to care for him and told me to pull back the skin to clean him. I freaked and told her that I HAD DONE THE RESEARCH and NO ONE was to do such a thing to my boy EVER.

    She, at the point, verbally doubted that I had, indeed done any worthy research, told me the doctor would talk to me, and left the room in a huff.

    The doctor came in and I explained that maybe the nurse isn’t as up to date as she should be on such matters. He apologized for her.

    But thanks for the reminder to ALWAYS remind the professionals!

  9. Wow-it sounds like a tough day at the doctors. I hope Julian is ok and it sounds like you got a lot of support around this as well. You are a great mom and such a good advocate.

  10. I had a similar thing happen when my oldest was 6 months old, and by the family doctor who was actually in agreement with me that he shouldn’t be circumcised. I was completely taken aback – and like you, speechless afterwards – when the doctor quickly retracted his foreskin.

    This doctor knew enough to agree with me that he shouldn’t be circ’d, yet he – a doctor – didn’t know about not retracting it?

    I’m not sure it’s because of this, but his foreskin still barely retracts now, 8 years later.

    And I’m glad you posted the info about that being a possibility into adulthood as well, as I recently found out.

    My youngest son, also not circ’d of course, startled me by completely retracting his own foreskin. Over and over. And so I asked my oldest if he could… thinking this *must* be the way it *should* be. But he couldn’t. So I recommended he do as his little brother, and play around with the skin – stretching it.

    Which he, as an oldest, dutifully did. :D But a week or two later he still wasn’t able to retract it. So I did some research and found what you posted above. And you’re now saving other people from doing as I did (although I *did* tell him never to force it). :D

    Thanks for the link to that form as well! I’m sharing it with my local mamas now.

  11. Don’t feel bad, same thing happened to me with ds1. Same as with Julian, I don’t think the ped actually hurt him, he just pulled it back enough to see the very tip of the penis, but I gasped and said “I thought you weren’t supposed to do that!” Blah blah blah BS about why he needed to check. Now we have a new ped who has never felt the need to mess with the foreskin at all. The only time we’ve seen a different hcp (both my boys have needed minor surgery for scrotum/testicle issues :( ) I say, “I’m sure you already know this, but DS is not circumcised and please do not retract his foreskin at all.” I usually feel a bit silly but I know it’s the best thing to do!

    Good for you for spreading the word.

  12. I worried a lot during my pregnancies about circumcision. I didn’t want my child to be “different” from all his peers, and I also didn’t want my child to have his penis un-necessarily cut.

    Then, luckily, I gave birth to girls each time. No boys, no circumcision. I was so relieved!

    Good luck with the penis care: you are right to be concerned, and I admire you for planning to talk to the MD about it.

  13. Thanks for sharing your story! Being we are going to military doctors, I admit I am a bit worried that they will try and mess with Alex’s penis … I think I will just casually mention he is intact and I don’t want to have anyone messing with his penis unless they tell me first and explain why it is needed.

    Hugs to you momma … it truly is hard to protect them from every little thing!

  14. Three points. First, I know this will fall on deaf ears, but perhaps the fact that you are “confused as to what truly is the proper care for an intact penis” could be an indication that you should just go the routine health-maintenence route and circumsize him?

    Second, for the love of God, would you stop using the word “intact” to refer to your son or his penis? His -foreskin- is intact, that is it. The obvious implication of using that terminology is that uncircumsized men are lacking. This would be incredibly insulting to the vast majority of men that are circumsized (myself included), if it were not so downright laughable.

    Third, and again I do not have a LOT of hope that anyone will heed this too strongly, but I really feel that this is a dangerous habit the internet fosters like few other communication mediums. Online, it is very easy to pick a minor paranoia (circumsicision is bad, immunizations are bad, doctors in general are bad, etc.), and surround yourself exclusively with people that agree with you. Little by little, that circle becomes convinced that this is a perfectly reasonable position and that the world in general agrees. Since very few outside that circle would have the energy to argue, you become more and more isolated from reality (realize that you are consulting a YAHOO GROUP to contradict the practice of a medical doctor) and don’t really realize that you have spun out. So let me be the outside voice of reason — you have. Sometimes the best way to protect your children is by letting competent professionals do their job without being second-guessed at every turn by someone with no training who read a Wikipedia article the night before.

  15. Ok, my son is not circumcised, and I have been in the same situation you are, also being in a very “hostile” hospital environment when he was born, people trying to make us to change our mind not to circumcise him.

    What I wanted to write here just totally slipped out of my mind after reading Tyler’s comment above, and couldn’t help but answer to some of his points.

    Point 1.
    If circumsation is “the routine health-maintenence” and for example one reason doing it is to prevent forskin cancer, should women also get their breasts removed in order to prevent breast cancer? Maybe this should be a “routine” someday? Or when women are done with having babies, should uterus removal be a routine too?

    Please Tyler, read some LATEST medical information about circumsation. While circumsation is very common in the United States, it is not common AT ALL in the rest of the world (in exception when done for religious reasons, not for medical reasons). Did you know that the reseach shows that having the foreskin INcreases the sexual pleasure in men? I wouldn’t want to take that away from my son.

    Point 3. I wonder Tyler if you have children? Do you let “professionals” make decisions for your child?

    I read all the time about mal-practice in hospitals, incect cases in churches or schools, not even speaking about how our education system fails in a basic thing like teaching all of our children to read (you do your research and find out the number or illiteracy in this country).

    I guess the education system fails to teach some people not to do their own reseach and blindly believe every word what teachers, doctors, politicians and priests say. After all, they are all professionals, and can never make mistakes. Oh yeah, and Tyler, you also forgot: everything they say on TV is true, right?

  16. thank you for sharing this. if this baby in here is a boy, we will be leaving him intact…and this is the kind of thing I need to know about. i am sure many others are grateful for this info.

    mb

  17. I really don’t want to turn this into an bickering back-and-forth, as it is so easy to do on the internet, but I could not help from laughing a bit at this:

    “Please Tyler, read some LATEST medical information about circumsation.”

    If you had read even a single sentence on the subject, one might think you would know that “circumsation” is not a word. I don’t mean to harshly mock little mistakes, but you used the word more than once in your post, and there is simply no way that someone who was knowledgable about the subject even in the slightest would not know the word for the procedure.

    (Potentially) slightly increased sexual pleasure is not a justification for an increased risk of cancer, infections, and STDs including HIV. If you can look into facts and research from an unbiased perspective, I am all for that. But when you are in a tiny minority and basing your information entirely on Google searches, Wikipedia entries, and fourth-hand tales of woe, you may need to re-evaluate your position and trust those that are more knowledgable. Of course it is scary to let go of that level of control, especially with children, but it is what is best for them. If you really don’t agree with that, then provide them with medical care at home. We’ll see how well it goes.

  18. Tyler -

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion, as everyone is, but since some of your information seems to be outdated, I thought you might want to consider the following…

    AskDrSears has a balanced (in my opinion) look at the pros and cons of circumcision – http://askdrsears.com/html/1/t012000.asp – It’s quite lengthy, but specifically worth noting is: “Medical benefits – THERE ARE NONE! Do not circumcise your baby because you think there are some medical benefits. A recent review by the American Academy of Pediatrics looked at all the data from the past decades to see if there truly were any medical benefits. Their conclusion – NO. There are no significant medical benefits that make circumcision worth doing.”
    He then goes on to refute the benefits that USED to be thought to be true.

    He also says (on that page):
    “So, what are the reasons TO circumcise? Here is the list:
    Religious reasons – as discussed above.

    That is all. There really is no good reason to circumcise other that personal preference and religious reasons.”

    You may also be interested in this bit of information from this page – http://askdrsears.com/html/10/t101500.asp#T101510 – :
    “Does circumcision prevent any disease?

    Circumcision does not prevent cancer of the penis, which is a very rare disease anyway and occurs more frequently in males who do not practice proper hygiene. Cervical cancer, which is not prevented by circumcision, is not more common in sexual partners of intact males who practice proper hygiene. Circumcision also does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.”

    Yes, you are right that I asked a Yahoo Group for their opinion, because I know 95% of the women on there in real life. It is a group of local friends. And on that board are two physician’s assistants and one family practitioner (MD). So it’s not just a random group of people.

    I also beg to differ that circumcision is the “routine health-maintenance route.” If you’ve taken a look at the circumcision post I wrote a year ago – http://crunchydomesticgoddess.com/?p=365 -, you’d have read that circ vs. non-circ’d is approaching 50-50, and may even be higher in favor of non-circ’d because home birth statistics (where babies are traditionally not circumcised) are not included in those results. Also worth noting is “Circumcision is almost unheard of in Europe, South America, and non-Muslim Asia. In fact, only 10 to 15 percent of men throughout the world are circumcised, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. The neonatal circumcision rate in the western U.S. has now fallen to 34.2 percent.”

    I’m not expecting to change your mind, Tyler. I know that once people are dead-set against something, no amount of evidence or coaxing will sway them, but I did want to put this information out there for anyone else who may be on the fence about circumcision.

  19. Thank you for posting about how being left intact is normal. Unfortunately, not all parents know that their baby is born perfect.

    Just the act of telling someone is activisim. Hopefully the word and knowledge will spread.

  20. Pingback: I am <3ed « Ewokmama: Parenting left of the middle.

  21. Its a nice post about to protect penis of women against different type of disease.
    Thanks for your time to post this article.It contain very useful and help info about women.

  22. Wow. Good stuff to know! I’m not a parent. Might be someday, who knows!
    Here via Ewokmama.

    I’ve also heard stories of parents paying for a circumcision, and having it go wrong / not take / having a bit of the flesh left.
    ;(

    Glad you are putting this out there.

  23. The glans (head) of the penis is intended to be an internal organ, i.e. enclosed in the foreskin. This way, the penis provides its’ own lubrication and does not “steal” a partners’ natural lubrication, thus lessening the chance of spreading a venereal disease. Microscopic tearing of tissue caused by unlubricated friction increases the chance of transmission of diseases. I am disgusted with the medical industry and this mangling of a perfect human specimen at birth. And don’t tell me the baby doesn’t remember trauma to the body. The body remembers it. I resent being circumsized a lot.

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