I’m a mama to two young boys who are both circumcised. I didn’t think anything of it in the hospital when I was asked if we were going to go through with it. I simply just did it because I thought that’s what was best, and I assumed it’s what everyone else did.
Turns out, there are some people who strongly suggest against circumcision. Yet again, I’ve stumbled across another one of those controversial topics that keeps parents wondering what’s right and what’s wrong.
You’ll find many who are anti-circumcision for numerous reasons saying that there is no medical reason for it and it doesn’t prevent disease. Then you’ll find others who are pro-circumcision who think the benefits outweigh the risks.
How to Know if Circumcision is Right or Wrong?
Unfortunately, this has to be a question you have to answer based on your own research and values. When it comes down to whether this surgery is right or wrong, there isn’t much scientific proof to guide you one way or another.
Here’s a handful of claims and opinions on the subject that will hopefully help you make the decision for your son.
The Anti-Circumcision Side
IntactAmerica.org is a grassroots organization in NY dedicated to “boys’ rights to genital integrity.” It is very obvious when you visit their site that they are strongly against circumcision. In one of their articles, they explain their opinion on removing a baby boy’s foreskin.
Circumcision is a painful, risky, unethical surgery that deprives over a million boys each year of healthy, functional tissue, while wasting health care dollars that could be spent on medically necessary services.
Some of the top reasons the organization gives for why you should keep your newborn intact are:
- There’s no medical reason for it — and it has never been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- The foreskin protects contaminants from entering the urinary tract.
- The foreskin plays an important role in sexual pleasure later in life because of nerve endings and lubrication functions.
- There are unnecessary pain and health risks (including death) with no medical benefits.
- Circumcision does not prevent diseases.
- Removing the foreskin is like removing a finger or any other healthy body part. Routine circumcision fails the bio-ethical principles of parents consent to surgery to “protect their child’s life or health”.
After reading more from non-circumcision advocates, I started to question my own decision on the matter! After all, I chose to go through with it simply because I thought my boys would get made fun of one day if they looked “different.” Researching the benefits or risks of getting snipped never even crossed my mind.
So then I decided to check what people were claiming on the other side of the debate.
The Pro-Circumcision Side
Kidshealth.org and the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) highlight what they claim to be the benefits of circumcision including:
- It’s easier to keep a circumcised penis clean.
- Penile problems like irritation, inflammation and infection are more common in uncircumcised males.
- Circumcised boys are less likely to get urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially in the first year of life, but only 1% or less of uncircumcised males are even affected by UTIs.
- Complications from the surgical procedure happen in only 0.2-3% of cases.
- There is possible benefit of reducing penile cancer & sexually transmitted diseases.
The NIH suggests that in the end, “Parents need to decide what is best for their sons based on their religious, cultural and personal preferences.”
More on Anti-Circumcision
I came across another interesting piece of information in an article on Huffington Post written by Christiane Northrup, MD (OBGYN) and bestselling author who has a history of performing circumcision surgery on infants.
In the article she explains why circumcision was introduced to our culture in the first place. She says,
Believe it or not, circumcision was introduced in English-speaking countries in the late 1800s to control or prevent masturbation, similar to the way that female circumcision–the removal of the clitoris and labia–was promoted and continues to be advocated in some Muslim and African countries to control women’s sexuality…Circumcision is a form of sexual abuse whether it’s done to girls or boys. We justify male infant circumcision by pretending that the babies don’t feel it because they’re too young and it will have no consequences when they are older. This is not true.
She also says in medical school she was taught that babies couldn’t feel the pain of childbirth and therefore they wouldn’t feel the pain of circumcision. For years in some hospitals infant surgeries were performed without anesthesia because of this misconception.
Ronald H. Gray from Johns Hopkins University performed a study in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda to justify the relationship between circumcision and the prevention of infections, penile cancer and STDs.
But Dr. Northrup says the study was not supported by science. Northrup and her colleague, George Denniston, M.D., point out that the U.S. has the highest circumcision rates in the West, but also have high rates of HIV.
On the other hand, in countries where circumcision is very rare, such as New Zealand and Ireland, they also have low rates of HIV. Basically, they point out that Gray’s “experiment” proves nothing.
In addition, the latest research from the Journal of the American Medical Association found no difference in uncircumcised and circumcised men for the risk of contracting STDs.
Dr. Denniston makes an interesting point refuting the uncleanliness of what you could call “boys in the hood”. He says,
Foreskin protects against disease; it doesn’t cause disease. If foreskin is unhygienic, eyelids should be considered unhygienic.
More on Pro-Circumcision
For some grown men, especially in America, being circumcised is a cosmetic symbol of their manhood.
- Here’s a great article by askmen.com on Facts About Circumcision that tells us a story about a 34-year old man who wanted to get circumcised just to look more “normal.”
Dr. Brian Morris, DSc, PhD, FAHA Professor at the University of Sydney School of Medical Sciences says there is credible research that shows most women prefer the circumcised penis for its appearance and sexual reasons.
Dr. Morris created an entire guide for parents regarding the risks and benefits of the surgery, although it’s very evident that he is biased toward the pro-circumcision side of the debate.
One of the reasons why he’s pro, is because he says it reduces the risk of female partners being infected with chlamydia and cervical cancer (caused by high-risk papillomavirus) by up to five times. He explains his reasoning,
The load of infectious bacteria and viruses that accumulate under the foreskin is delivered into the female genital tract during sex. Since the foreskin traps bacteria and other infectious agents, as well as accumulating malodorous smegma, its removal improves genital hygiene and reduces risk of diseases and other conditions over the lifetime for the boy and his future sexual partners. If not circumcised soon after birth, up to 10% of males will later require one anyway for medical reasons.
So — to circ or not to circ? It is still an ongoing controversy, especially in the United States.
But the bottom line is, parents will just have to make an informed choice and go with what they feel is right.
Otherwise, just try for a girl!
What is your experience or opinion on circumcision? Leave a comment and help parents decide!
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- Here’s a Foreskin Care flyer from Intact America if you choose not to circumcise your son.
The Circumcision Procedure