I Am Not a Doctor

I recently had a friend ask if she could send me a picture of her son’s genitals, in hopes that I could identify the issue he was experiencing. The child’s pediatrician had told her that the boy had phimosis. According to this doctor, if the phimosis didn't respond to medication, the boy would need to see a urologist for a possible circumcision. (At Your Whole Baby, we hear stories similar to this on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. This was not an isolated incident.)

After taking one look at the picture she sent, I immediately thought, “yeast.” Most of his penis, especially the tip, was bright red. I sent the picture to another knowledgeable colleague to confirm my suspicions, and she agreed it looked like the result of yeast overgrowth. Feeling confident that my initial suspicions were correct, I emailed my friend instructions for treating her son’s minor infection: Slather on the Lotrimin. Add some apple cider vinegar in his bath. Throw in an oral probiotic for good measure.

By the next morning, her son was almost back to normal.

Think about that. A pediatrician — who holds a degree in medicine and is trained to treat children — prescribed this toddler the wrong medication and was ready to send him off to a urologist for a circumcision due to . . . an easily treatable yeast infection. (I’ll repeat, at Your Whole Baby, we hear stories similar to this on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. This was not an isolated incident.)

I am not a doctor — far from it. I earned my degree in English. But I have made it my business to learn as much as I can about the normal, whole male body because I know that I cannot rely on American doctors to properly diagnose any potential penis problems my son might experience. I cannot even trust them to know not to retract his foreskin.

All my current knowledge about foreskin and genital cutting comes from an online community of individuals who understand firsthand how important it is to have this information, since we live in a society frequently unfamiliar and hostile toward the normal male body. Like me, many of them have spent countless hours poring over research studies, published articles, and statements from medical organizations around the world, rather than simply taking the word of the American Academy of Pediatrics. We rely on each other because the inaccurate information provided in American doctors’ offices and hospitals is dangerous and damaging.

In our society, we are raised to believe that medical professionals have the answers — and oftentimes, they do. We especially want to be able to trust them when something is wrong with our children. For that reason, I understand that it may be disconcerting to take the advice of “strangers on the internet” over your respected local pediatrician. However, until more medical professionals educate themselves on the normal, complete male penis, they will continue to pass along inaccurate and even harmful information to families; as a result, parents must make every effort to keep themselves informed and protect their sons.

I am not a doctor. But I do know the facts about forced retraction, yeast, ballooning, smegma, redness, the functions of the foreskin, the timeframe in which normal separation occurs, and the short-term and long-term complications caused by genital cutting. And more importantly, if there’s something I don’t know, I don’t pretend to have the answer. I turn to people I can trust, people who know more than I do, and I seek out the answers. I work with and continue to learn from an amazing community of lifelong learners, people who have made it their mission to protect males from harm at the hands of medical professionals.

I am not a doctor and I shouldn’t need to know this much about the human penis, but as long as children are being painfully, needlessly, and permanently injured every day, I will do what is in my power to help protect their bodies.

You are not a doctor either, but you may be your son’s only advocate. Please, educate yourself so that you can protect your son.

Jen Williams is the founder of Your Whole Baby. She is passionate about many causes including the human rights violation happening to baby boys and girls around the world. Jen lives with her husband and two intact children.