"If we hope to create a non-violent world where respect and kindness replace fear and hatred, we must begin with how we treat each other at the begining of life. For that is where our deepest patterns are set. From these roots grow fear and alienation or love and trust."
Suzanne Arms

Monday, May 24, 2010

Penile Adhesions

Ha!!  Did that title get your attention??  But seriously, this is good info for those who may have a baby boy who is circed or who may be considering circumcising future children . . . 

First Do No Harm

Whenever I think of that creed that Dr's strive to abide by I can't help but think circumcision, and how ironic it is that the goal is to FIRST do NO harm . . . yet they are performing elective cosmetic surgery on a baby.  Without the procedure there is no harm, things are left perfect as they are, as God created them when He declared "it is good" (they have disproved supposed health benefits from circumcising).  The procedure has the potential to cause harm (or I would argue doesn't have the potential to not cause harm) . . . so it seems like there is a conflict here.

We all know there are complications with any surgery or any medical procedure period.  I am not talking about trauma or lingering pain or mental issues (much of which is also experienced)  . . . but actual physical issues as a result of the procedure.  Among the many potential complications you have things like infection, hemorrhage, buried penis, phimosis, deformity (can be caused by removing too much foreskin or actually cutting into the penis) along with more serious complications like amputation and even death.  Of course the more serious complications are very rare.  But rare or not, they do occur, and wouldn't otherwise, so it is right to acknowledge their existence.  In this article on the Estimated Incidence of Circumcision Complications in the US from 1940-1990 they estimate . . . 
At the present rate of over 1.25 million infant circumcisions annually, the estimated death rate of 1 in 24,000 translates to one infant death per week (52 deaths annually). An estimated death rate of 1 in 500,000 translates to one infant death every 152 days (between 2 and 3 deaths annually).
I know babies can die from any number of things, it is so terribly tragic, heartbreaking . . . but because this is due to an elective cosmetic surgery gives me pause.  In this case I refer you back to the first bold line of this blog post above.
Like I said though, serious life threatening complications from circ are rare.  But there are complications that are much more common, and adhesions are often either overlooked or catch parents by surprise.

What are Penile Adhesions

Penile adhesions occur when the foreskin, that has been ripped away from the glans of the penis during the circumcision procedure, adheres back to the glans in the days/weeks following the procedure.  Or if you want the words of a professional, here is a description by a nurse
When a circumcision is done, tissue which would normally be intact is split. Unless proper care is taken, the epithelium of the inner prepuce at the point where the foreskin was removed can reattach to the epithelium of the glans. The result of this is a penile adhesion.
 This has always been a complication, however I really believe that it is becoming more common. A study by Dr Van Howe showed that some 25.6% of circumcised babies had problems with adhesions and 4.1% had skin bridges.

With circumcision not being recommended by any medical establishment, and with the current trends in the culture today, I understand that a lot of Dr's are becoming more conservative and cutting off less of the foreskin.  At least this is what I am hearing from others as well as seeing first hand on children I know who have been circed and have much more of their foreskin remaining (especially compared to the dozens and dozens of preschool kids I worked with 15 yrs ago).  This is a step in the right direction, the less you cut off the better, however you are going to have the same recovery and pain issues as well as many other potential complications no matter how much is cut off.  So cutting off less doesn't make it "right" or somehow ok.  Nor can it serve as a compromise . . . a circumcision is a circumcision . . . period. 

The issue is that they are ripping the foreskin away from the glans to perform the circumcision (on an intact penis the foreskin will naturally separate in time, and should never be forced).  Then, instead of doing a "high and tight" as we may call it, and removing most of the foreskin (which can cause it's own problems like painful erections, harry penis and bent penis because, for some, there isn't enough skin left to allow for full or normal erection as adults) they are leaving more of the foreskin on.  This skin then adheres back to the penis wherever it may fall, which is where you have your adhesion issues.  The ultimate result of these more conservative circumcisions is a penis which requires the special care of a circumcised penis (especially in the first days and weeks) but you also have a good bit of foreskin remaining, that eventually, once healed and separated, must be cleaned like an intact penis (ultimately retracted and cleaned under).  I don't think parents realize this.  The circumcised penis requires more care than the intact penis during the first 3 years of life. 

As mentioned, the excess foreskin, if left alone, will adhere back to the glans causing adhesions.  Basically the remaining foreskin is just trying to do what it is supposed to do and what it would have done before it was forcefully retracted from the glans.  There are also other types of adhesions that are more serious, those involving the actual scar and the forming of bridges. Some dr's recommend constantly retracting the foreskin after birth, and doing it daily to prevent adhesionsa baby's intact penis is self cleaning and completely protected and requires no special care whatsoever . . . and I have 4 boys so I know this to be true from experience).

So it is a catch 22.  If you cut off a lot of foreskin you risk deformities, issues with function etc.  If you leave some on you have a good chance of having adhesions and it requires special care.  Seems that either way you slice it there are issues (OK bad pun, LOL, but you get the picture).

So what do you do if your baby has adhesions?   Many Dr's recommend forcibly retracting the foreskin (which would be excruciating initially unless some topical numbing cream was used) and applying ointment and repeating daily till the foreskin no longer adheres.  Remember, this is raw skin that is sticking together, I can't help but think that separating it over and over would have to be painful, especially if it is starting to 'stick'.  In my research on this I have read some message boards where parents have said that they have had to retract at ever diaper change till their child was out of diapers in order to prevent the adhesions from forming.  Yikes!!  This is backed up by a statement by Dr Van Howe . . .
There is little medical advice available on this problem but Dr. Van Howe writes that "the circumcised boy needs to have any skin overlaying the glans pulled back and cleaned regularly until 15-18 months of age to prevent adhesions from reforming and debris from accumulating." He says the debris consists of "lint, dirt, talc, stool and detritus." He found strong association between coronal adhesions and the presence of subpreputial debris. Dr. Van Howe state sthat most preputial adhesions in circumcised boys resolve by 24 months "afterparents were instructed to apply gentle retraction on the adhesion.
Some say leave it be and it will separate on it's own as they get older.  I tend to think the 2nd advice is the most sound (no surprise, I tend to take the most natural route).  Eventually, hormones will naturally cause the skin to separate as it does for an intact penis.  But there is the potential for more complications since it has been altered from it's natural state and excess skin may adhere anywhere.  Infections and debris getting caught inside, (see quote above)  skin bridges and pain etc. are all potential complications  There have been times where there have been referrals to urologists and a 2nd circumcision is recommended, HERE is one such story.  I don't know if these are always necessary or just the medical profession trying to 'fix' something they think needs fixing (something they messed up to begin with).  In fact 1 of my 5 brothers in law (who shall remain nameless) was circumcised for a 2nd time as a baby, because there were problems after the first circumcision.  His mother told me the heartbreaking story of hearing him screaming from down the hall as it was being done again. . . and 20+ yrs later she is still regretful and saddened by how needless it all was.  From the Van Howe study linked to several times above . . .
According to past studies, between 1%[2,3] and 9.5%[4] of boys circumcised at birth will have the procedure revised or redone
 I think many people think that circumcision is supposed to make things easier, it is supposed to be cleaner, it is supposed to look better (all of which is untrue by the way) and I am sure plenty of people have seen no outward issues at all after their sons circumcisions . . . but what we are doing is altering the body.  We are taking a functioning organ and removing it for no medical reason.  And we are doing it on a baby when the organ is 1/10th (shoot even smaller than that) the size it will be when that child is an adult.  Plastic surgeons won't even do many surgeries on children with deformities until they are older, because they know how much children's bodies change as they grow.

We humans try to improve on Gods design, but we can't!!  It is one thing if a child is born with an anomaly, but to alter a beautiful, perfect creation . . . there are often consequences, great or small (mental or physical).  I think back to the saying First Do No Harm and I can't imagine any procedure it applies to better than performing cosmetic surgery on a baby who is not deformed.

Here are some first hand accounts online from parents who have had to go through this, as well as some of the recommendations from their Dr's (which you will see vary greatly)

http://www.mothersagainstcirc.org/adhesions.htm (bottom of the page)

If you have a son who is circumcised and has adhesions, do your research and make sure to get a 2nd (or 3rd) opinion before deciding on something drastic like a 2nd surgery.
If you are pregnant or contemplating circumcising future sons, I encourage you to also research. While I can understand and respect that certain religions feel bound to circ (and any Christians reading need to understand that we are NOT commanded to circumcise in the Bible, nor is Circumcision spoken about positively under the new covenant), the fact is that no medical society in the world recommends circumcision.  I encourage everyone to consider their child and his rights, and consider allowing him to make this very sensitive and personal decision for himself.

More information
There is more information about circumcision and adhesions at the links included throughout the post.  More info can also be found at these links below (some are duplicates from above)
Penile Adhesion: The hidden complication of circumcision
Adhesions, what are they
Post Operative Complications of Circumcision 
Penile Adhesions after Neonatal Circumcision

Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Mothers Against Circumcision
Circumcision Information and Resource Pages

p.s. . . . If anyone wonders why there are sometimes weeks between my posts . . . it is because it sometimes takes me weeks to write them, LOL!!! (can't recall the number of times I fell asleep in bed trying to finish this one, I am only 1/2 awake right now, LOL!).


  1. P.S. It was indeed your post title in my blogroll that caught my eye. ;)

  2. That was very thorough & well-researched, thank you! I know what you mean about the time it takes to write a behemoth post like that. :)

    The fact that circumcision is still routine boggles my mind. Thanks for pointing out that doing something so unnecessary and painful can lead to such a common complication.

  3. Thanks :0)
    I have good intentions "oh I'll just write a quick post on this circ complication" but I JUST CAN'T do it without including lots of links and info which takes FOREVER. I need to fill with some quicker posts, but I have a hard time doing quick, LOL!

    It is the strangest thing but the more kids I have the more of my time it takes, LOL!! They are always needing food or wanting me to do stuff for them, or making messes and they are here ALL DAY LOL! Seriously though, when I do get time to stop (when I have 2 hands free and am not nursing one of the 2 currently nursing) I sometimes have a hard time staying awake to type ;0)

  4. 4% male babies are born with naturally separated glans/foreskin. This separation is mediated by the youths testosterone and may take 18 years. While separating, the foreskin is itchy and it is common to see them itching it. This is also nature's way of speeding the process of separation.

    I have read a mother's post where she had to tear the adhesion at every diaper change for a year hurting her baby. How can the baby not remember this as armoring.

    The most common complication which happens years later is meatal stenosis, up to 33% when too many lymph nodes are cut off. The meatal (piss opening) can't fight the irritation of urine and constant fabric rubbing and so starts to protect itself by closing up making it harder to pee. A scalpel is used to open up the meatal usually greater than needed because the doctor doesn't want a revisit. The result is an abnormal opening. With less skin cut off, this should lower the rate of this complication. Another complication is malaposition which is twisting of the shaft skin. Another, skin tags. A complication peculiar only to the Plastibell method is having the plastic ring slip down on the shaft, strangulating the blood flow, which scarring can result so when erect the penis has an hour glass shape.

    Parents are not told that the penis grows into its foreskin. The penis grows faster than the foreskin at puberty. There's is no excess or redundant foreskin. So what may look like a adequate amount of foreskin to take off, becomes to much at puberty. At this time the first nocturnal emission may tear the frenulum remnant making it a blood mess rather than a good time. Complicating this is the fear and embarrassment of telling the parents. Some don't.

  5. I forgot to mention the 100% complication of killing brain cells. Like any sensory part of the body, the foreskin when missing will no longer be sending neural impulses to the brain. These brains cell then will atrophy and die. Then the adjacent brain cells will grow into this dead space chaotically.

    One function of the Dartos muscle is it tenses upon erection thereby creating a one piece solid skin tube where any action on it, the shaft, is transferred to the erogenous ridged band and through its loop to the frenulum, this action is transferred to act an the frenulum. All action on the shaft acts on the erogenous structures the ridged band and frenulum.

    Circumcision always removes all of the ridged band and part to all of the frenulum. All action on the shaft is wasted on these erogenous structures. Action must be directly on the frenulum remnant, if any remains.

  6. KOTFrank wrote . . . "4% male babies are born with naturally separated glans/foreskin. This separation is mediated by the youths testosterone and may take 18 years. While separating, the foreskin is itchy and it is common to see them itching it. This is also nature's way of speeding the process of separation."

    I see this happen with my boys. The older 3 could retract their foreskin, exposing the entire head of the penis, by 3 yrs old. I know because they are all quite excited when they discover this cool new thing and they run to show me, LOL!! Ever in particular was excited that he could now "pop his penis" like Arah does, LOL! Not all boys have this much separation this early, but they all did (not sure about #4 as he is only 1). We EC and so as babies they are mostly naked bum at home (and as toddlers, because they just like being naked period) and they discover this cool little 'toy' very early and are often pulling/tugging on it. So far all of them have grown out of the fascination and need to have their hands there constantly when they were little, but I am sure, and have told others, that having access to it and the tugging/pulling aids in the foreskin separation, and besides, they are not going to do anything to themselves that hurts.

    Once I notice it separating I show them how to clean it when in the bath (we don't really bathe them when they are little, they just play in the bath) and all they do is pull it back and rinse with water. That is it, no biggie!!

    If an intat boy does not have full separation when younger it should happen, as you said, when the hormones kick in around puberty. Same thing goes for little girls who have vaginal adhesions. No need to separate or use hormone creams, nature takes care of itself later (but that is another whole blog post, LOL)

  7. I've been reading up on circumcision too little too late. We circumcised our son because "everyone does it" and "it's cleaner and less risk for STD's." When I mentioned to my sisters and mother that we were not going to circumcise our son, they couldn't believe we were going to subject him to the tortures of other kids, either. They said we shouldn't have our son be the trend-setter with a different looking penis than every other boy, and that he would get teased in the locker room and eventually be turned down by women because he wasn't circumcised. Needless to say, we had the circumcision done. It killed me, and I cried for hours right after it was done (my husband was there for the circumcision and he too cried when it was done), and I still cry when I think too hard about our decision to mutilate our son. Well, his foreskin has adhered slightly to the corona, or head of his penis. The first time it did it, our pediatrician ripped it back and our son screamed and cried. He told us we needed to put Vaseline on it and retract it at every diaper change for a month. We did this, and it didn't readhere after a month. I continued to do this gentle retraction, but it seems to have adhered again. Our son is going back for his shots in a few days, as he's 3 1/2 months old. I'm afraid our pediatrician is going to try to rip it off again. I can't find any conclusive evidence that the foreskin will separate on its own. I've seen on several blogs and posts such as yours that it SHOULD separate on its own just as the foreskin separates from the glans of an uncircumcised penis on its own by the time they're 3 or so. I DON'T want him to rip it off again. I can't bear to put my son through that yet again. Have you found in your research that it will separate on its own and to leave it alone? If you have any words of wisdom or have found conclusive research that you'd be willing to share, I'd appreciate it. I wish I could do it over and not have him circumcised, but it's too little too late. My email is hringersma@gmail.com Thank you!!!

  8. Hey Heather, Bless your heart! It is so difficult to look back and regret decisions we made, but NOT ONE parent doesn't have regrets. We just do the best we can and if we can learn and grow as parents that is the most important thing. None of us are perfect, but our kids are resilient, and forgiving (dh was circed and doesn't have any negative feelings towards his mother about it, even though she feels horrible about it).
    I'll shoot you an e-mail with some thoughts about adhesions.

  9. They do not heal or correct themselves on their own. My husband had this as a baby and his mother did not keep up with pulling it back, he was forced at the age of 13 to go through another circumcision where he has to remember it now. If you do choose to circumcise and this happens please keep up with it as it will become a problem later. Also it has been recently found out that some genes are more likely for it to happen. It happened to my husband and then happened to my son.

  10. Ashlee, That sounds horrible for your husband, and I am sorry to hear about your son too.
    I think it depends on where the foreskin adheres. I have read about cases where it has resolved itself, but if it involves the scar tissue that isn't likely. But the thing is, you will never know till after the fact (or later when it is too late to fix without major intervention). So being informed, proactive or better yet, just leaving them as God created them, is so important.
    Some intact boys are not fully retractable till puberty (the natural adhesion of the foreskin to the glans is still there) which could occur later than age 13. And girls with vaginal adhesions typically clear up on their own around puberty too (thanks to hormones).

    The more research I have done the more I think that, as you said, you should just keep trying to prevent it adhering at all, and if it does adhere to use the most gentle methods possible to try to separate it.

    Thanks so much for sharing. Hopefully people reading will realize that all of these problems and issues can be avoided if we just leave their perfect little bodies alone.

  11. I have been debating this issue for months now my son is due any day and thankfully this has cemented my decision on NOT doing a circumcision on my son. I have always thought this to be painful and traumatizing to the child but many have said he won't remember among other things that just seem stupid to me. More are choosing to not do this barbaric procedure now and I applaud them. It's just to risky and painful for me. If I were a man I wouldn't want this done to me or my child. I have also read articles that state men loose anywhere from an inch to and inch and a half with circumcision, what man wouldn't want a little extra down there lol So I just wanted to thank you for this wonderful information and know that it has saved my son's foreskin ;-) Natural is the best way to be!

  12. My husband did the research and concluded that we should NOT circumcise and I trusted his findings, but never read up on it myself. After reading this blog, I feel even stronger about our decision. We are expecting baby boy #2 and the same goes for him- Au naturel!

  13. Thank you for taking the time to write this post. It was very informative and I really appreciate it but I do have a question. My niece had a son a month ago and wanted to circumcise him because her husband said so, with lots of education I believe we've change their mind or at least hers. However I babysat last night and noticed there was scabs on his penis and he's screaming uncontrollably and when I asked her about this she said he's been screaming like this for the past two weeks. I then asked her if she had him cut and she said no we haven't done that yet. So they are still thinking about it unfortunately but I think someone forcefully retracted him which is leaving many problems for that baby. At this point what would your advice be to help him. It really concerns me that he's in pain and before two weeks ago he was very calm, just a really good baby. Cried when he was hungry but not the blood curdling cry that clearly is a painful cry. I'm really looking for some advice to go back to my niece without closing doors of communication between her and I.

    Thank you,
    Distressed great Aunt

    1. Sorry I'm a couple days late (just seeing this). I'm so sorry about your nieces son. Unfortunately, even though we have come along way with trying to educate people on proper contact care, there still ignoring people and even doctors and nurses who forcibly retract intact babies and toddlers causing much pain and scarring. Sometimes it happened so quickly (like at a well check up) that even well intentioned parents can't stop it.

      In this case, I wonder if she is retracting him herself? Does she even know that you are not supposed to do that? Many parents do not. There is so much misinformation and misunderstanding about the intact penis. I would start by sending her information on proper intact care. At this point… His penis should be left completely alone in allowed to heal. No one should be manipulating it AT ALL other than to wipe the outside, very gently, during diaper changes. Soaking in a bath, with no soap can help promote healing. A little bit of Epsom salts added to the bath might be helpful, or some herbs. But the key is to leave it alone, do not retract at all, and let it heal. Here's some more information http://www.drmomma.org/2009/12/forced-retraction-what-now.html?m=1

      Your Whole Baby has a good page on proper intact care. https://www.yourwholebaby.org/basic-intact-care/
      Here is their info on forced retraction https://www.yourwholebaby.org/forced-retraction

      Thank you for everything that you are trying to do to protect this precious little boy. Hopefully your niece will be open to all of this information and he will heal well and remain whole. If she is skeptical about keeping her son intact she is welcome to contact me. I have five intact sons and it's really the easiest thing in the world! Normal, natural, intact!!

  14. Remarkable! Its in fact amazing post, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.



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