Forced Retraction: Don't Let it Happen to Your Son

By Peggy Fenton
Read more from Fenton at Intactivist Examiner

Jenny's pediatrician told her to start retracting her baby's foreskin for cleaning at his 12-month well baby visit. Jenny didn't do it, because she read that it's not good to retract on the internet.

At her son's 15 month well-baby visit, Jenny's pediatrician retracted the boy's foreskin herself, scolding Jenny as she did so, for neglecting her son's genital hygiene. The pediatrician told Jenny to retract her son's foreskin every day for cleaning. This time Jenny listened.

From that point on, she and her husband dutifully retracted their son's foreskin for cleaning, almost every day. This continued until the boy was 18 months old.

Then one day, Jenny noticed her son had not wet his diaper all afternoon. He cried at bath time as he dribbled a little urine. Soon the baby was screaming each time he tried to urinate.

Jenny's son's foreskin was infected, as a result of being retracted long before it was meant to be. By retracting the foreskin, Jenny's pediatrician had severed the fragile connective tissue between the foreskin and glans, and prematurely stretched the sphincter opening. The internal environment was no longer sterile and the natural protective flora had been disrupted.

Instead of cleaning and caring for her son's penis, by repeatedly retracting him as her doctor insisted, Jenny had been setting him up for infection.

After several trips to the emergency room for emergency catheterization to release urine, and a painful distressing week for Jenny and her son, he finally began to mend. Jenny realized her doctor had given her bad advice.

Jenny went online where she quickly connected with other mothers of intact boys, eager to share the intact care information so commonly lacking among American doctors.

What did Jenny find out?

* Only clean what is seen, and never retract. The foreskin is there for a reason - to protect the still developing glans, and to keep it clean and healthy. It is supposed to be attached to the glans during infancy and childhood.

* Forced premature retraction is epidemic among American healthcare workers, including pediatricians, and nurses, even doctors and nurses in the maternity ward. It is also epidemic among day care workers, babysitters, and well-meaning but misinformed aunties and grannies.

* Parents of intact boys must remain vigilant during the diaper years to prevent another person from prematurely retracting their son's foreskin. Parents must proactively warn doctors and nurses at every well baby visit that their son's foreskin is not to be retracted. It can happen in an instant, and then the damage is done. Parents should be direct and firm. If necessary, they may even threaten legal action if their wishes are not respected.

* If a doctor or health care worker prematurely retracts your child, consider reporting them to your state medical society, supplying all the details.

Additional Information


Forced Retraction: Now What?

Only Clean What is Seen: Reversing the Epidemic of Forced Retraction

Medical Testing: Do Not Retract

Forced Retraction: Ask the Experts

Doctors Opposing Circumcision - Warning to Parents: Foreskin Retraction of Intact Boys - an epidemic

Doctors Opposing Circumcision - Development of Retractile Foreskin

Only Clean What is Seen (pdf)


The Functions of the Foreskin: Purposes of the Prepuce

The Phony Phimosis Diagnosis

Protect Your Intact Son

National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers Publication on care of the intact penis (pdf).

Raising Intact Sons

Basic Care of the Intact Child

Painful Urination During Prepuce Separation

Questions Regarding Normal Separation of the Prepuce

How the Foreskin Protects Against UTI

Circumcision Information Resource Page (CIRP) libray - Penile hygiene for intact males

*Note: You may wish to maintain a Diaper-On policy at check-ups to prevent this from happening. Unless there is a suspected problem, there is no reason your physician or nurse needs to remove your son's diaper. Simply state that you will be keeping it on - he can be weighed and checked with a clean diaper on, without removing it. If you'd like to learn more on how to examine your baby yourself, see the excellent book, Take Charge of Your Child's Health.



  1. I am so glad that my son's pediatrician is foreskin-friendly. It has never been an issue for us, he usually opens the diaper to do a quick check and see if everything's alright in there, but he doesn't touch anything.

  2. It's not just American Drs who have faulty information on the care of an intact foreskin. I read a comment in a messageboard at BabyFit from a woman from another country that does not do routine infant circumcision, and her son's Dr gave her directions on how to "properly" gently retract the foreskin for cleaning and to encourage retraction. She also gave a story of a woman who was scolded and who's 7 year old son "had" to be circumcised bcause she thought she was supposed to leave it alone and never did anything to help it retract. So it's not just American Drs who give this faulty information about how to care for an intact foreskin.

  3. Surely in this day and age medical professionals would have realised that a foreskin is there for a reason and it is not unclean to have one, and that the skin will move on its own. I think it shocking that they still hack wee boys. I have a son, he is beautiful, he has what grew inside me and after seeing a circ. video you have on here (silent one) I cannot for a minute see why a mother would want her son to "look like daddy" if he has been hacked. Why inflict that horror just to "look" like another mutilated sole.

  4. My son had two UTI's in the first 7 weeks of life. The ER nurse forcibly retracted his foreskin to cath him. After that, I continued to retract it because I thought that since it was already done and he was prone to UTI's that that was what I was to do. Now after reading all of this, I feel HORRIBLE. I can't get over this, I worry about it all the time. He's now 4 months old. Should I continue to retract it now, or not??

  5. ugh, i wish i had thought to put a sign up on my son's incubator in the NICU. i suspect they retracted him in the NICU (he was a preemie, there for 7 wks) and i feel SO BAD about it :(

  6. I don't think most people realize it's easier to care for an intact baby boy, than a circumcised one.

  7. My mother in law was forcing my son's skin back until I made her read Dr. Sears stuff. She said she did it to my husband and when she worked in a newborn nursery. Poor hubby and poor babies.

  8. I think it's sad that in America normal little boys are called "intact". I'd never heard the term until joining Facebook. I'm English and have only ever heard of two boys be circumcised and it was for medical reasons when they were about 8.

  9. I really think this is why some boys in the US have "issues" (like infections, phimosis, etc) that will lead to later circumcision or problems - lack of education for parents AND medical professionals on the care of the intact penis, and especially not retracting. After much soul-searching (because I really liked her in every way but how she handled my son's penis) I have decided to leave our 2nd pediatrician and seek out a 3rd for his 9mo appt... thankfully she is on your "foreskin-friendly" list and people around here love her... she is also quoted as saying that her 2 sons are intact :) Can't wait to meet her soon and (hopefully) end our quest for a ped I feel comfortable with!

  10. I'm pregnant with a boy whom we will keep intact...I am so terrified that we won't be able to prevent others' ignorance from ruining his penis.

  11. @Dawn, you have to be on your guard. I'm 0 for 2 on pediatrician/family practitioners insisting that I should be retracting it.

  12. Just a few days ago, my supposedly 'good' ped pulled back my son's foreskin the littlest bit. I hit his hand back and said "please do not retract him". The doc said "oh, this doesn't hurt, I'm not retracting him". If he pulled it back the slightest bit this is retraction, correct? My son was not bothered by it and nothing is red.

  13. Best way to keep your son safe in hospital: go to one that allows you to room in. :)

    I like some of the "Don't Circumcise / Don't Retract" onesies for babies in the hospital.

  14. uggh i have this conversation everytime (very rare now :D) that i go to the doctors the first time i had a foreskin friendly doc and she was perfect but then i got military insurance and the first time i went in i notice the doctor going to retract and before i could say anything he just forced it back, that second i pushed him away and picked up my baby and left, i felt so bad i was crying. he still has marks 7 months later from where his skin opened but now ill tell you what my sons diaper doesn't leave his booty!

  15. I agree with everything in this article except the reporting the medical staff for prematurely retracting the foreskin... honestly some or should i say A LOT of health care personnel don't know about foreskin care so should a medical staff do it accidentally I think the parents should educate the medical staff on it or educate/tell them about their son being intact and what NOT to do before they even care for their child should they have to have medical attention.... know what I mean?

  16. Our family doctor (who has moved away) was awesome with our son. Never said a word about his foreskin. She used to check to make sure his testicles were descended and that was it. Mind you she grew up in England, so I guess it just wasn't an issue to her.

  17. If my homebirth doesn't go as planned then I'm more concerned with doctor visits, hard-headed relatives, etc.

  18. I have the same question as Kim. I have two intact sons, almost 6 and 5 months. Our current ped does not touch the penis at all; his words: "As long as you don't have two of them, you're fine." Anyway we did have a ped when my older boy was... a baby who wanted to look at the penis head so she would manipulate the opening a little until it was just visible. It didn't bother my son at all and he's never had a problem. Is this considered retraction?

    Also, for those who have older intact boys, how do you know when it's retractable? My son has a slight rash on his foreskin a couple months ago and it seemed like a good time to check, so I asked him to try pulling the skin back but to stop if it hurt at all. He was able to manipulate the skin quite a bit but he did not retract it; I don't think he understood what I was asking and I didn't want to try myself because we're teaching him not to let others touch it without his consent. How do I figure this out? If it's fully retractable he should clean under it right? I could use some help with this.

  19. After giving a stack of literature to our ped with my first son, I would've thought he wouldn't learned not to do that to my kids. With my second son, he has done it again! And twice!! And when I told him, "No, we don't do that!" He still did it! Can retracting the foreskin only two times cause damage???

  20. When my oldest was born, they did this to him at his first pediatric visit. I didn't know that they were going to do it until they just did it. No time to stop it from happening. It is something I will never forget---the trauma was horrible for my sweet baby boy. I wanted to punch the doctor. Now I guard my son's penis when at the doctor and let no one near it---period.

  21. Why do doctors even feel the need to touch the baby's genitalia? Checking for diaper rash, I get, but really? Is it all that necessary to hand their goods? My doctor doesn't fondle me at my every check up, why is it necessary for babies? :/

  22. This is one of my greatest fears. I feel lucky to have found a fantastic family doc, but reading this article reminds me that I have to be sure the "well-meaning grannies and aunties" remember our diaper-changing rules before we leave DS with them.

  23. Our ped is amazing, he has never ever come close to retracting with any of our sons, in fact I think the only part of their genitalia he has touched are testicles. Only to check for hernias etc.

  24. Our ped retracted my son, and I screamed, like for real and loud. It was my gut reaction. He said "It doesn't hurt". I told him not to do it again and he hasn't. He's great in every other way, so I'm just gonna chalk it up to awful medical school not teaching about NORMAL penises.

  25. i dont understand? why the retraction? what are they looking for? they dont do it to little girls!

  26. I wrote on the front of my son's diapers "DO NOT RETRACT FORESKIN" with a sharpie marker when I took him to our drop-in daycare. I was concerned as they had rotating care providers and did not want to take any chances. It worked :)

  27. Don't retract! Because trust me - dealing with acquired phimosis at age 17 SUCKS.

  28. @Michelle: our family doc. explained what she was checking for: that the testicles were descended and that the anus is open. Same thing with my baby girls: a quick, gentle check for adhesions and the anus. It takes seconds.

  29. Alexx- what is acquired phimosos?

  30. Thanks for this! 28 weeks pregnant with my first son, I need to know these things so when he goes to well-baby check ups I can let the doctor know and be vigilant.

  31. ‎@Alicia - acquired phimosis is the formation of scar tissue after the foreskin has been forcibly retracted before it was ready.

    My boyfriend was "diagnosed" with phimosis at age two and has many memories of being (PAINFULLY) forcibly retracted.

    Now he ACTUALLY has it, and has just started treatment.

  32. If a parent is uncomfortable (and in the U.S. you have just reason to be) you can have a "diaper on" policy for doctors visits. There is no reason a parent cannot learn how to check for adhesions or an 'open anus.' In fact - usually when there is a problem it is mom who is first to notice. If your baby is peeing and pooping just fine, then there is likely no concern. If something specifically needs attention, you can then have it addressed at this point.

    I wouldn't recommend this across the board - because there are many babies who are abused or mistreated and the abuse or neglect is only found when they happen to come in for a doctor's check. In this way, routine exams are a good thing.

    But for parents like many pp readers - who take an active roll in their child's health and are well informed on topics like taking care of their intact boy or girl - there may not be a need for the diaper to ever come off for anyone other than the trusted caregiver who is changing it...

    A great book that addresses this is "Take Charge of Your Child's Health"

  33. at the ER on Monday, my son was being treated for vomiting and dehydration. I'm a registered nurse, but i did not tell them that until afterward, because I was sick of them not taking me seriously.
    They wanted to catheterize him to obtain urine to see if he had a kidney/bladder infection. I was okay with that. (you don't need to fully retract the foreskin to see and clean the tip.)
    the nurse and her assistant took his diaper off and I said: My son has his foreskin. please be careful.

    the male replied: please hold his arms back, she's sterile.

    she pulled his foreskin back and swabbed the tip of his penis with iodine. my son cried. I saw blood.
    I said, don't retract! what are you doing?

    she said, i didn't go too far.
    i said: yes you did, he's bleeding.

    realizing it was too late, i let her obtain the urine.
    the next time I changed his diaper, there was a ring of blood in the diaper.

    my son has never said Owww before this.
    with each diaper change now, he says Owwww, is guarding and is very uncomfortable. the foreskin nearest the opening is red and raw. i'm heartbroken and I feel horrible that i didn't prevent this.

    yes, i am a nurse, but i'm a first time mom, and my son is 22 months. can he heal okay from this? has anyone had issues where the foreskin was prematurely retracted only once?

  34. My son is intact and was also sexually abused. Boundaries and respecting his body are a major concern. Other people shouldn't be doing that to someone else's child for a number of reasons. Children, no matter how young should have their body respected.



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