Expert Advice

Is circumcision good for my baby?

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By SP Turgon

In this post we are talking about male circumcision—cutting off a baby’s foreskin (prepuce) of his penis. It’s an increasingly hot topic of debate. It’s also one of the most common procedures in the world[1] and is usually performed 1-10 days after birth. Including this preference in your birth plan will help your team know whether or not to schedule the procedure for you.

Male circumcision is a very old tradition, although historians disagree where it first began. It has been practiced in the Americas, Africa, the Near East, Australia, and South East Asia[2].

Some cultures practice it as part of their religion and some people do it for health reasons. Either way, it’s a practice people often feel strongly about. Your birth plan should state clearly whether or not you choose this option for your son.

If you are a practitioner of a religion that requires circumcision, your choice is clear. But if you’re undecided because of health, function, or aesthetic reasons, gathering evidence-based information is important to feeling that you’ve made the best choice for your child.

Many parents want their baby’s body to stay as natural as possible, and increasing numbers of parents are choosing not to circumcise their sons. Some parents don’t circumcise because earlier studies[3] suggested that exposing the head of the penis decreases sensitivity and affects later sexual pleasure.

Every family has to decide whether circumcision is right for them

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overall rates of newborn circumcision declined 10% from 1979-2010[4]. When a report came out from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in 2012[5] that revised their previous anti-circumcision position, rates went up again because the report stated that the health benefits outweigh the risks or aesthetics.

The report recommends circumcision for:

  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections
  • Decreased risk of acquisition of HIV
  • Decreased risk of transmission of some sexually transmitted infections
  • Decreased risk of penile cancer

Both AAP and the Mayo Clinic agree that circumcision does not appear to affect sexual function/sensitivity of the penis or sexual satisfaction. It also has no effect on fertility.

Mayo Clinic advises that circumcision may not be appropriate for premature babies requiring medical care or babies with blood-clotting issues.

The risks of circumcision are few and rare:

  • The foreskin might be cut too short or too long
  • The foreskin might fail to heal properly
  • The remaining foreskin might reattach to the end of the penis, requiring minor surgical repair[6]

One of AAP’s report’s recommendations states, “Parents should weigh the health benefits and risks in light of their own religious, cultural, and personal preferences, as the medical benefits alone may not outweigh these other considerations for individual families.”[7] Clearly, experts agree that circumcision isn’t a critical choice, but a personal choice that should fit into a family’s desires and norms.

If you are having your baby in the hospital, be sure your birth plan and hospital bag checklist contain both your birth preferences around circumcision and any products you may choose to care for your baby’s penis.

[1] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/e756

[2] http://www.d.umn.edu/~mcco0322/history.htm

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17155977

[4] http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/circumcision_2013/circumcision_2013.htm

[5] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/e756

[6] http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/basics/risks/prc-20013585

[7] http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/e756

Sabriga TurgonIs circumcision good for my baby?

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