Congratulations – it's a boy! You've entered a special world full of sweet hugs, limitless energy – and questions you never thought you would need to ask. (Why yes, he just may pee on you during a diaper change!)
Craig Peters, M.D., a pediatric urologist at Children's Health℠ and Professor at UT Southwestern, answers a few of the most common questions he hears from moms of boys.
Should I circumcise my baby?
Circumcision is a common procedure that is often performed a few days after birth to remove the "sleeve" of skin that covers the tip of a newborn boy's penis. The procedure is completely optional, and parents are given this choice after delivery. Circumcision, Dr. Peters explains, is a decision completely up to them.
"Parents can decide whether or not to circumcise their son," says Dr. Peters. "It could be cultural, aesthetic or a religious reason. We support their decisions and help guide them if there are any medical reasons to circumcise or not circumcise a baby boy."
There may be some medical reasons or circumstances in which a doctor may advise you not to circumcise your baby boy. Learn more about circumcision and how to best care for your son, whether circumcised or not.
What does a normal penis look like?
Most mothers may be at a loss for words when asked to describe what a penis should look like. That can create some confusion and concern when caring for a newborn son.
"There are no embarrassing – or silly questions," reassures Dr. Peters. "It's important for parents to understand their child's anatomy and the proper medical terms for each body part to foster open and honest conversations at every age."
The penis reaches full size during puberty. It is made up of several parts:
- Glans is the head of the penis. Prepuce (foreskin) covers the glans in uncircumcised men. In circumcised men, the foreskin is removed.
- Corpus cavernosum runs along the sides of the penis as two columns of tissue. The tissue fills with blood during an erection.
- Corpus spongiosum is a sponge-like tissue that runs in front of the penis and ends at the glans. During an erection, it fills with blood to keep the urethra open.
- The urethra sends urine out of the body and runs along the corpus spongiosum.
- Scrotum is located below the penis and is a pouch of skin that holds the testes, epididymis and lower portions of spermatic cords.
"A ‘normal' penis includes each of these parts – all of which will function properly in most newborns," explains Dr. Peters.
What if my child complains of pain in or around his penis?
Pain in or around the penis can be caused by many different factors.
"Your son may have been kicked in the penis or scrotum, he may be suffering from a urinary tract infection, or it may not even be ‘pain' he is feeling," explains Dr. Peters. "Children can sometimes describe something as painful when it's something that's sore, uncomfortable or just different."
Boys at any age can experience an erection – including babies. The sensation often surprises toddlers or preschoolers, and they may tell you their penis feels "funny." An erection should never be painful, so if your child does have pain, contact your pediatrician or a pediatric urologist.
Other common causes of penile pain include:
- Inguinal hernia
- Injury to the penis or scrotum
- Foreskin infection
- Foreskin retraction problems (foreskin becomes "stuck" to the glans)
- Rashes, most often caused by skin irritants
- Urinary tract infection
- Varicocele (swollen veins above the testes)
Call your doctor immediately if your child complains of any of the following symptoms with pain:
- Blood in urine
- Red rash or blisters on the foreskin
- Pain or burning when passing urine
- Severe pain
- Swollen foreskin
What is testicular torsion?
Testicular torsion is a serious medical condition that requires emergency care. The spermatic cord provides blood flow to the testicle. This cord can rotate and twist, which cuts off the testicle's blood supply. This causes sudden severe pain and swelling.
Testicular torsion most commonly happens in boys with a bell clapper deformity, where the testicles are not attached to the scrotum. Testicular torsion can also happen after strenuous exercise, during sleep or after a scrotum injury.
If you suspect your son has testicular torsion, go to the nearest emergency room. Surgery is required to fix the twisted spermatic cord and there is limited time to correct the problem. Testicular torsion that is not treated immediately can cause the testicle to die.
Foster open, honest conversations
It may feel uncomfortable to talk to your son about his penis or sexual health. Set the stage by sharing open and accurate information with your child at every age. Start by naming his anatomy correctly, and always answer his questions to the best of your ability. The more honest you are, the more likely he will share his questions and concerns.
The Pediatric Urology department at Children's Health offers comprehensive care from prenatal to adolescence and beyond. Learn more about the Urology program and services.
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