It is very troubling every time I receive an email from a parent telling me that their doctor/nurse/medical tech said it was necessary to forcibly retract their infant's foreskin (causing immense pain and tearing and possible future problems) for routine check-ups and testing. Forced retraction often occurs by medical staff because they were simply not taught how to insert a catheter, extract a urine sample, or properly examine the natural, normal, intact penis.
In fact, in my graduate research (Frisbie 2006), I found that the vast majority of medical school urology textbooks only contained depictions and descriptions of circumcised penises! When U.S. medical students practiced on cadavers, these too, were often circumcised. It is no wonder our doctors and medical staff do not know what they are doing with and to our intact boys.
Forced retraction is the primary reason for the vast majority of all prepuce related problems in infancy and later in life. It is so, SO important that you (as your son's mother or father) become VERY well versed in the proper care of the penis and prepuce (foreskin) so that you are able to protect your little man while he still cannot speak up for, or defend, himself.
Dr. Paul Fleiss (a pediatrician who has studied the foreskin and circumcision extensively for 30 years) and Dr. Frederick Hodges (who has studied and written in the field of urology) wrote a book called, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You about Circumcision". If you are able, PLEASE get this book, read it, and share with other parents you know. Amazon Link. Half.Com Link
In this book, Drs. Fleiss and Hodges discuss forced retraction and how it is NEVER medically necessary - NEVER. They specifically discuss doctors and nurses who go 'looking for UTIs' and tell parents they must retract the foreskin. This is NOT necessary.
Not only do babies NOT produce lubrication (even pre-pubescent children produce very, very little), the prepuce is securely attached to the glans of the penis as an infant - much like your fingernail is securely attached to your finger. It does not need to be forcibly torn away in order to get a sterile urine sample.
Fleiss and Hodges write:
You are a lioness defending her cub...We would never pull out our fingernails to improve hand hygiene...Be on your guard. Never let a doctor or anyone attempt to retract your son's foreskin. Optimal hygiene of the penis demands that the foreskin of infants and children be left alone. Premature retraction may tear the skin of the penis causing your child extreme pain. There is NO LEGITIMATE MEDICAL JUSTIFICATION FOR RETRACTION. If any doctor suggestions [forced retraction] for your son, firmly refuse, stating, "Just leave it alone."
Drs. Fleiss and Hodges also inform parents:
Doctors have made up some strange reasons for wanting to retract a child's foreskin during checkups. None of them are valid. They may sound convincing, but I assure you, they are ALL WRONG. If a doctor tries to retract your child's foreskin, stop him. Tell him that this is inappropriate, unnecessary, and traumatic. Please, be on your guard. Many parents have made their feelings clear only to have doctors retract their son's foreskin anyway, causing the child enormous pain and trauma. Regardless of your child's age, and even if your child's foreskin is already fully retractable, doctors have no business fiddling with your child's penis and foreskin. Sometimes they say they are looking for a urinary tract infection (UTI). This is absolutely ridiculous, but many doctors have actually said this to parents. [Sterile urine samples can be easily obtained from girls AND boys from simply wiping the outside of the genitals first.] Doctors who [attempt retraction for UTI testing] are usually circumcised and upset at the sight of an intact penis. They are unfamiliar with it and anxious. You know more than they do about this body part. You MUST take charge. Protect your child from any attempt to retract or tamper with his foreskin.
If you are able to find a doctor who is up to date in his/her research and skills in caring for an intact boy, as well as in favor of keeping boys intact, this is certainly optimal. Until the time when all medical staff are trained in the proper care and protection of intact babies and children, we, as parents, must do our job as the informed, watchful guardians of their well-being.
Dr. Fleiss currently practices pediatric medicine in Los Angeles, CA.
Dr. Hodges currently teaches at Yale University.
Read the International Doctors Opposing Circumcision Statement on Forced Retraction.
Read this additional article by Dr. Geisheker & Dr. Travis: Only Clean What is Seen: Reversing the Epidemic of Forcible Retraction.
A colleague of mine recently put together a video for the site, As Nature Intended, calling for all professionals to STOP the harmful forced retraction of our boys: