A recent piece in the New York Times highlighted an issue about which many people are probably unaware: nervous parents are asking their son’s pediatrician if the size of their young child’s penis is normal. The issue? Most often, it’s fat.
Many prepubescent boys (especially those just past the toddler stage) whose penises have yet to grow appear to have smaller phalluses, but oftentimes it is only because they have gained a bit of weight. As a result, the fat in the pubic region dwarfs the child’s penis and leaves moms and dads worrying that their child might be abnormal in some way.
Dr. Perri Klass writes:
Questions about penis size have become more common over the past decade, as my colleagues and I have all seen more overweight children coming in for physical exams. And these worries reflect cultural preoccupations and anxieties, which can make the conversation highly fraught for all concerned.
This phenomenon should not be confused with micropenis, which is an actual medical condition (usually diagnosed at birth) that can indicate any number of issues, including hormonal problems.
Merritt Jensen, a pediatric psychologist, works with the division of urology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I hear a lot of parents just wanting to be reassured it is within the realm of appropriate and typical and that it’s going to work correctly,” she said. “The mom often will say it but you can see the relief in Dad’s face.”
None of these conversations are easy, from the nervous questions in the pediatric office to the specialist referrals.
In most cases, doctors recommend that the boys lose a little weight and wait until after puberty (when their penises have had a chance to grow). Usually, no medical intervention is needed. This results in a huge sigh of relief, especially for the boys, who would rather not go under the knife unnecessarily.