Thrive Birth Center Blog

Care for the Intact Penis

Newborn males are normally born with their prepuce fused to their glans penis by a membrane. This tissue connection is normal at birth, making it so that the prepuce cannot be retracted, or pulled back from the glans. A study of 100 newborns found that less than 5% could fully retract their prepuce. If left intact (uncircumcised), the prepuce usually becomes less attached and more retractable over childhood and adolescence. By 10 years of age, more than 50% of boys can completely retract their prepuce, and by 17 years of age, less than 1% of boys will be unable to retract their prepuce with gentle manipulation.


baby boy



Care of the intact penis is simple. It can be washed with water during the infant’s bath (non-irritating soapy water may also be used). The main thing to remember is that when the prepuce is still attached to the glans, it should never be retracted, or pulled back toward the abdomen by force (for example, during a bath or a medical check-up). Forced retraction can cause pain, tearing and bleeding (Dave et al. 2017).


There is no need to wash beneath the prepuce until it is more easily retractable later in childhood or adolescence. In fact, the natural buildup of oils and old skin cells beneath the prepuce (called smegma), along with occasional erections, helps the prepuce to gradually separate from the glans until it is fully retractable. The white substance called smegma that builds up in moist folds of genital tissue is normal for males and females (where it can build up between the labia and around the hood of the clitoris) and can be wiped away with washing.


Once a boy discovers (on his own) that he can pull his prepuce back, he can be taught to clean the area between the prepuce and the glans as part of a regular bathing or showering routine. Simply pull back the prepuce gently and rinse underneath with water.


Bottom line….. You don’t have to worry about your son being left intact. His body was born perfect! Learning how to support the natural process of his growing body is all part of the process.