Q & A on the healthy foreskin


Many people write to me with their concerns about retracting the foreskin. This is an exchange that I had with a midwife on my email.

Hi Gloria,
My son, David, is 10 and intact but we have always been curious about the fact that his foreskin seemed attached on the under-side. We thought he may outgrow it but a recent checkup by our D.O. suggested that he may need to be circumcised. The foreskin cannot be retracted due to this adhesion of the skin. We are against circumcision unless it’s absolutely-medically-necessary. Is there any way to correct this problem without a full circumcision? We are afraid a trip to the urologist will only advocate for that. Any advice you can provide would be so appreciated!
Thank you, Gloria!
C. V., Midwife

Dear C.,
Some boys don’t fully retract until in their late teens. His underside attachment is perfectly normal at 10 years old. Leave it all alone. It’s not “adhesion”, it’s a process his body is slowly but surely going through to separate the glans and the foreskin. It’s the same for boys as for girls; some girls start their menstrual cycles at 9 years old and some at 19. . .there is lots of variation. I would not let any medical person touch my son, if I were you. Have faith that his body is doing just fine. Love Gloria
p.s. if you’d like other opinions on this (I know they are the same as mine because I’ve had this query from other women) you could contact Marilyn Milos R. N. at www.nocirc.org or Doctors Opposing Circumcision in Seattle.
p.p.s. I’m very glad that you wrote.

Thank you, Gloria, for the amazingly quick response! I cannot tell you how much that means to me. This makes us feel so much better. We truly felt sickened at the thought of possibly circumcising him-especially after all this time. His twin brother seems to have a similar problem, but simply tight foreskin which is uncomfortable for him to retract. The doctor’s advice was to just continue to pull back gently every time he showers, in hopes of stretching the skin gradually. Would you agree?
Warm Regards,
C. V.

Dear C., this is a subject that is clouded in misinformation for the public and medical profession. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (which has been known to give out bad advice on child health) cautions physicians to get rid of this advice to retract the foreskin. Pulling back on the foreskin should only be done at the boy’s initiation and, then, it should be a pleasurable act. The same advice applies to both of your boys. . . . if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. An intact penis that is functioning well for urination is a healthy body part. Your concerns arise because you live in a culture that lost for decades the information about what is normal about male genitalia and, now, we are regaining the knowledge that retraction is harmful and the foreskin separates from the glans at different times in the maturing process. As in birth, be patient. Gloria in Vancouver.

(Names and initials changed for confidentiality)

4 thoughts on “Q & A on the healthy foreskin

  1. American doctors are so weird. Why are they even worried about this if your son is not in pain? I live in the UK where most boys are not circumcised. My eight year old son is intact and no doctor or I or anyone else have ever tried to pull back his foreskin. That is for him to do as he learns to explore his own sexuality. I believe in his body and his ability to tell me if something hurts or feels wrong (which is highly unlikely). There is no need to retract a foreskin. Trust in nature. American doctors just don’t understand, because they have interfered with nature too long.

    • Ir’s all of North America (including Canada) that has this obsession of looking for an illness that male genital mutilation can cure. It’s like all the misinformation about breast feeding. We have an uphill climb to educate people back to normal, healthy respect for the bodies of boys.

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