When I was pregnant with our first baby, we had The Talk about what Decision we would make about What To Do About The Penis if we had a boy. My partner, a circumcised male, wasn’t sure about not circumcising — ultimately because he is circumcised, and it seemed such a great unknown, leaving our potential boy intact, and since there is a lot of pro-circumcision information out there. We DID end up having a boy and we DIDN’T end up circumcising him (after a lot of serious discussion), and for the last few years we have felt good about that decision.
We still feel good about that decision BUT today the tip of our son’s foreskin was all red and it hurt him when he peed. My partner and I immediately assumed it was a UTI or some other kind of infection, and my partner’s reaction was “Everyone is going to say it’s because we didn’t circumcise him!” Well, i surely don’t know who “everyone” is, but I was worried that it was an infection and worried that there was something I could/should have done to prevent it. I was reluctant to call our pediatrician (who told us on a previous visit “Don’t retract his foreskin before I do” — um, no one is retracting his foreskin but him, doc!), because I know not many doctors in the U.S. are familiar with intact penis care. I was worried about early retraction or improper treatment for a misdiagnosis because of inexperience with uncircumcised penis issues. And none of the pediatric care books we have at home say much more than the usual “just use warm water, gentle cleansing, don’t retract, etc” without any mention of what to do about infection or what signifies an infection, or well, really anything about infection at all.
So of course I turned to the internet.
It took me a minute, but finally after googling “intact penis infection” I found two incredibly helpful websites. The first has an actual list of all the possible intact penis “problems”, which gave me some relief, as I now had an idea of what we might be dealing with and what kind of treatment we might be looking at. Very nice. The second, however, revealed a “condition” I had never known existed! As it turns out, some boys experience a few days of “separation trauma” — that is, pain during urination in the area between the foreskin and the glans where there is the beginning of separation. There can be tenderness when the urine passes over the newly exposed tissue, causing some pain and redness for some poor little fellas. To help, boys can be encouraged to take a warm bath with 1/4 c baking soda to soothe the glans or to urinate in a warm cup of water (or the bath) to help dilute the urine as it passes of the tender area to help relieve some of the acidity of the urine. Infections, apparently, make themselves rather obvious rather quickly in about the same amount of time that it takes for separation trauma to clear up. So while I hate the thought of putting my son through a few days of pain of infection that could have been avoided if I had taken him to the pediatrician right away, I hate more the thought of the infection be exacerbated or initiated (if it is only separation trauma after all) by forcible early retraction of his foreskin that I wasn’t able to prevent. The second site also advises using just a cotton swab at the tip of the foreskin to collect a sample — without retraction — in the case of diagnosing an infection. And that infections are rather rare in intact boys, despite all the buzz about how intact boys are much more susceptible to infection that circumcised guys.
Crazy that something so common is such uncommon knowledge! I just wanted to share in case there are other parents out there with little fellas out there going through the same thing. The more information out there about how to take care of our intact babies, the better!
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