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Childbirth Educator Today

Care of the Intact Penis

by James E. Peron, Ed. D.

In a society where routine circumcision has been common for many years, even parents who choose to protect their sons from routine circumcision may have questions regarding hygiene of the intact penis.

Should the young child's foreskin be retracted for proper cleaning? At what age should the child's foreskin be retractable?

What about "smegma" and hygiene?

Parents are frequently told that the foreskin must be carefully cleaned to remove "smegma" from under the foreskin. Smegma is a natural oily, waxy lubricant formed between the foreskin and the glans. Rarely does it exist in the uncircumcised child whose foreskin has not been forcibly retracted; the substance we are warned to carefully wash away is rarely produced during childhood. During puberty, these natural secretions tend to increase, providing a natural lubricant between the foreskin and glans for protection and to permit the foreskin to slide easily over the glans as nature intended for this age. By mid-teenage, the foreskin is retractable and hygiene is a simple matter. Any accumulation of these natural lubricating substances can easily be cleansed during the boy's shower or bath.

What about irritation or itching of the foreskin?

(*Improper retraction by force can cause small tears in the foreskin and the mucosal fold under the foreskin where it is normally adherent to the glans. This may cause bleeding and considerable pain, and open the route for potential infection and irritation. If this is a regular practice, restrictive scar tissue may form around the opening of the foreskin or between the foreskin and the glans.)

James E. Peron, Ed. D. is a medical research writer and founder of Childbirth Education Foundation, P.O. Box 251 Oxford, PA 19363 Phone: (717) 529-2561 Email: jperon@epix.net

(File revised 18 December 2004)

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