More and more parents are attending paediatricians’ offices with concerns about their son’s penis size, according to an article in The New York Times.
But in fact paediatricians say the most common characteristic is that the children are overweight.
While the mother is usually the one to attend the appointment, concerns actually stem from the father, says Dr Perri Klass.
“Most of the time, everything (to do with the penis) is perfectly normal. But what most of those boys have in common is their physique. They tend to be overweight,” he says.
“I see dissatisfaction with the phallus very regularly,” agrees Dr. Aseem Shukla, a Paediatric Urologist at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and associate Professor of Urology at the Perelman School of Medicine.
He told The New York Times it was common for parents of boys aged 10-11 years to say: “My son’s penis is too short.”
Doctors say that more often than not there is no cause for concern and explain that in babies and toddlers the penis can often appear to be very small.
This is more so the case when the child is larger than average. Parents of overweight children then express concern that the genitals may be an issue when in fact they are not.
Dr Klass explains that the penis in children can sit behind a section of fat which is located in front of the pubic bone. This layer can hide the penis well into adolescence, according to the article in The Times.
Dr Shukla says this is what is known as “hidden penis” and it can be a combination of the penis not having grown yet, as well as the child being overweight and then penis being hidden by a bigger fat pad in the stomach than that in an average sized child.
Dr Shukla says that there are surgical options for children suffering from hidden penis but that ideally the solution should be to wait until the child develops more and to promote weight loss. He says that for parents concerned about their son’s genitals, the news that surgery is not the preferred option is often welcomed.
Doctors say conditions like micropenis is often diagnosed at birth. Image: istock
There are certain conditions which do require different treatment but these are often rare and diagnosed at birth rather than at a prepubescent age.
Micropenis, for example, can reflect disruptions in the hormone system, rather than a physical abnormality on its own.
Dr Klass says that there are general penile measurements available which help to determine whether a child has the condition or not.
Measurements are done from the pubic bone by stretching the non-erect penis to the point of resistance.
For full term newborns the measurement is around 3.5cm. Doctors say that they do not worry about any child around 2 or 2.5 cm.
As with most concerns to do with a child's health, Dr Shukla says that more often than not parents are just looking for reassurance.
"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 realise that the private area can be different and because yours looks different from your brother's doesn't mean there is something wrong".