Pediatricians across the country are reporting a rise in the number of parents who are coming to them with concerns about their sons’ penis size, even as a much more pressing problem, childhood obesity, is what they should be concerned about.
Dr. Perri Klass, writing a guest column for the New York Times, says that he gets the question the most from mothers, who say they are asking on behalf of their husbands: is my son’s penis size normal? And 99 percent of the time, the answer to the question is, “Yes, it’s perfectly normal.”
Dr. Aseem Shukla, a pediatric urologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, says he gets the question most often from parents of 10- and 11-year-old boys — boys at the cusp of puberty.
“I see dissatisfaction with the phallus very regularly. A common thing is, ‘my son’s penis is too short.'”
In fact, your son’s penis probably isn’t too short. In boys before puberty, penis size can vary quite a bit, and in the rare cases where the size is an issue, your pediatrician would have alerted you to it long before your son started approaching puberty. Once puberty begins, not all parts of the body grow at the same rate, meaning your son may get larger while his penis remains “prepubertal.”
In an extremely rare condition, a boy can be born with what is called a “micropenis.” A micropenis is described as one that is smaller than about two to 2.5 centimeters (about 0.8 inches to about 1.0 inches) at birth, and they are extremely rare.
A much more common problem is that your son’s penis may be perfectly normal-sized, but it appears small because your child is obese. The so-called “hidden penis” occurs when the fat pad that covers the public bone grows so large that the penis appears buried within it.
Obesity is, of course, a problem that can affect boys of any age — infants, adolescents, adult men — and the most obvious solution is weight loss.
In another extreme case, a boy can develop what is called a “slidey penis,” in which the soft tissue below the skin of the penis doesn’t adhere well to the thick covering that surrounds the penile nerves and arteries. In a case like this, only the skin of the penis (or foreskin, in uncircumcised boys) is visible.
In both the case of the hidden penis and the slidey penis, there are surgical interventions, says Dr. Shukla, but in general, the problem will sort itself out as boys grow and, if necessary, shed those extra pounds. He says that news is welcome relief to most of the boys he treats.
“The kids are usually pretty relieved that we’re not going to cut.”
As any parent of a child who has gone through (or is going through) adolescence will tell you, the principal concern about kids that age is that they are “normal.” Dr. Shukla does his best to reassure his young patients and their parents that everything is just fine.
“I basically say, ‘first of all I want you to know that you are absolutely and completely normal. We don’t all walk around with our pants down, and we don’t see how everybody is. But you should realize the private area can be different, and because yours looks different from your brother’s doesn’t mean there is something wrong.'”
And nine times out of 10, says pediatric psychologist Merritt Jensen, the dads are just as relieved as the boys.
“The mom often will say it but you can see the relief in Dad’s face.”
[Image via s_oleg/Shutterstock]