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.Â 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.Â 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.orgÂ 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 aÂ study in Kenya, South Africa and Uganda to justify the relationship between circumcision and the prevention of infections, penile cancer and STDs.
ButÂ 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 haveÂ 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 onÂ Facts About CircumcisionÂ 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 parentsÂ 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 virusesÂ that accumulate under the foreskin is delivered into theÂ female genital tract during sex.Â Since the foreskin traps bacteria and other infectious agents,Â as well as accumulating malodorous smegma, its removalÂ improves genital hygiene and reduces risk of diseases andÂ other conditions over the lifetime for the boy and his futureÂ sexual partners.Â If not circumcised soon after birth, up to 10% of malesÂ 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 CareÂ flyer from Intact America if you choose not to circumcise your son.
The Circumcision Procedure
Thank you for your effort at being balanced on this issue, that unfortunately, many get pretty upset about. Have you considered how it is that we find this acceptable & look for justification in amputating healthy body parts from boys but not girls? Why do you think that is?
There is an important part missing from the graphic. It neglects to show that before the foreskin can be amputated, it has to be ripped from the glans, which it is fused to, much like our finger nails are fused to our fingers. A probe is what is used for this & I would imagine, it’s about as painful as having a probe stuck under a few finger nails would be. Perhaps including a link to show an actual circumcision performed would show the whole picture? Here is one, which admittedly, I have not watched. They give me nightmares: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXVFFI76ff0
How dare you put this on a web site This a ritual in my Jewish Religion
Now I don’t know if I should continue buying from Natural Healthy concepts
Wow, Ethel. This was a very balanced post and not biased whatsoever… did you even read it? Probably not. Sorry to have offended you – but not everyone in the world shares your same beliefs.
Ethel, please know that we are in no way casting aspersions on the Jewish faith. Nothing could be further from the truth. Circumcision is a really hot topic not only in the natural health arena but, as you’re no doubt aware, in 2011 the city of San Francisco was looking to ban the circumcision of male children! Why should a municipality vote on such a personal topic? Now, that’s offensive! We even have team members here at Natural Healthy Concepts who hold differing opinions on the subject and many parenting social media sites get into big arguments over the topic. Since most circumcisions are not done for religious reasons, we were simply trying to let our readers know this topic is something they need to research and should discuss even before they have children.
We appreciate your business and hope you don’t let this one article keep you from doing business with us again.
Can I cut off your outer labia? Then don’t act like you have a single right to say anything about anything being insulting! You’re barbarians.
Thanks for weighing in, Brody. You have a right to your opinion just like everyone else.
“Natural Healthy Concepts” the irony….”circumcision” is neither natural nor healthy. Also “circumcision” is NOT a human right it SHOULD have been banned in San Francisco your argument “Why should a municipality vote on such a personal topic” okay can i cut my daughter a tiny bit for personal reasons? and if anyone questions me on my personal choice are they interfering and should i be offended? NO. Human right not a female right. Also lets not forget that story where a judge forced a mother to have her son cut.
Oh NO! Please forgive her for posting about a medical procedure done to most males in the US. If you choose to be jewish thats fine. But don’t go around grandstanding like we should care, at all. I’m not jewish and half of my penis(50% of the surface area) was amputated without my consent at birth, and i’m NOT jewish. So spare us.
This was a very interesting piece. However, I felt there were a few things that could have been a bit clearer. Circumcision as performed on an infant male is much different than when performed on an adult male. There was only only a little mention of the anatomy of the male and how the glans and foreskin function… there are entire books written on this topic! There was also no mention of the fact that all female humans also have a foreskin, known as the clitoral hood, nor mention of the practice of infant female circumcision in the United States and its legality through 1997. No mention of women who have survived female circumcision. There was no mention of the psychological and physiological changes which occur when an infant is circumcised.
While this piece presented both sides of circumcision, it was a mere scratch on the surface of the topic of genital cutting.
Bleh i really need to move to the uk…i wish i lived in a country where they don’t even ask if you want to cut your boy…they are just born and you take them home like girls
it’s unreal that this happens so often to males in this country
it’s unreal that people think it’s anti jewish to be against circumcision
Thanks, Ashley Steinbrinck for sharing such and informative post.