What is a short frenulum?

So you think your frenulum is too short. But what is a frenulum, how should it look like and what kind of problems can it cause?

Let's first look at what the frenulum is exactly. It's a small elastic band of tissue that sits between the prepuce (or foreskin) and the glans (the head of the penis). The foreskin itself is attached to the head of the penis, at the base of the glans, but the movement of the foreskin over the glans can be (severely) limited by the length of the frenulum. The frenulum also plays an important role during sexual intercourse. Its primary function is to retract the foreskin from the glans during an erection. In this way, the friction of the lower vaginal wall on this (sensitive) spot can cause an orgasm (and ejaculation).

On the picture below you can see what the frenulum looks like. You'll notice it resembles the little band under your tongue, which bears the same name.

Normal frenulum

During an erection, the foreskin should be able to move completely behind the glans. However, in most young men the frenulum is a bit too short.

This can result in two problems:

  • The frenulum is so short the foreskin cannot be pulled back far enough, and the glans will still be partially covered with foreskin.
  • The glans can be uncovered, but this causes so much tension on the frenulum the entire glans bends down.

As long as you cannot pull back all of the foreskin behind the glans during an erection without your glans bending down, your frenulum is too short.

If you stretch your frenulum too hard, it will become white, another indication it is too short.

What can happen if you have a short frenulum, or a frenulum breve as it is officially called?

  • If your frenulum is too short even when flaccid, it will be hard to remove the smegma at the base of the glans, which can cause infections and a nasty smell.
  • Masturbation will be harder, since the frenulum will limit the movement of the foreskin over the glans.
  • During your first intercourse, the vaginal walls will grip around the base of your penis and pull the skin down, causing your frenulum to tear. Since there are multiple veins running through that area, you will bleed a lot. In fact, some people even call this the 'male defloration'. The frenulum will heal by itself after the bleeding has stopped, but scar tissue will remain.

Let's see what your penis probably looks like if you remove your foreskin.

Frenulum stage 1

On the four pictures above, you can see the foreskin being pulled back. The last picture shows what is probably happening with your foreskin: the frenulum on the back is too short, preventing the foreskin to be pulled back further. If you look closely at the backside of your penis, you'll see the frenulum turning white, an indication that it is stretched to the maximum.

Frenulum stage 2

On these pictures you can see how far the foreskin has to be pulled back to have normal intercourse. Don't worry, you probably won't be able to do that (yet), but at least you can see what the goal is: just like on the picture on the right, you should be able to pull the foreskin completely away from the glans causing it to stretch out and become flat. The glans should only bend downwards slightly.

Mind you, there is a difference between a short frenulum and a tight foreskin. When you pull down your foreskin and you notice the circumference is too small for the glans to come through, you probably have a condition called phimosis or foreskin adhesion. This is not the same as having a short frenulum although the problems this condition causes, are the same.


 Finding a solution for your problem

You know your frenulum is too short. But what can you do about it? A stretching exercise comes to the rescue!


 Why circumcision is not always a good solution

When they are confronted with a short frenulum, doctors often propose a circumcision. This means that your foreskin and frenulum will be removed surgically. However, by taking away the root of the problem, new complications can arise.