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Infant Circumcision – Tradition or Necessity?

As parents, there are so many decisions to make when having a baby from what type of health care provider you will choose (OB-GYN or midwife or both) to where you will birth (hospital, birthing center, or home) to what will happen immediately after your baby’s born.  Among genetic disease testing, vitamin K injections, to whether your baby will get a bottle of glucose or be allowed to breastfeed FIRST, and administration of silver nitrate in baby’s eyes (just in case she might get gonorrhea from passing through the birth canal), another decision on the menu is whether or not to circumcise your infant boy’s penis.

It’s basically routine to have the procedure, and in the United States, it’s rather unorthodox (no pun intended) to NOT conclude with the procedure.  So, if you’ve made up your mind that your baby boy will have a circumcision, then just for the sake of understanding why other parents choose not to, then please forge ahead in this post.  If you’re on the fence and you may be considering waiting on the circumcision or not proceeding, then I hope you find the following information helpful in guiding your decision.  Warning: this post is unabashedly one-sided.  I fully and completely disagree with infant circumcision, whether it’s for a male or female.  You’ll very easily hear the pro-arguments from almost any health care provider in a hospital.  You’ll have to search a little harder to find points of view in agreement with me.  However, if you’re one to go along with the crowd, consider that the infant circumcision rates in the U.S. are slowly decreasing.  On the east and west coasts, the rate for circumcision is roughly 50% of newborn males.

History

I recommend visiting the site for the International Coalition for Genital Integrity which recognizes the inherent right for all human beings to have an intact body.  Without sexual, racial, or religious prejudice, the ICGI affirms this basic human right.  The ICGI created a powerful slideshow on the history of the medicalization of circumcision to show how the hype, generated from skewed study results caused increases in circumcision rates in the U.S., U.K., and the world before “medicine” was indeed scientific in creating objective, unbiased study results.  When further studies indicated health risks caused by circumcision, they were discontinued in the United Kingdom.  But, don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

Doctors in the English-speaking countries started circumcising babies in the mid-1800s “to prevent masturbation,” which was blamed for causing many diseases, including epilepsy, tuberculosis, and insanity. Other reasons have been given since then, but all of them, including the claim that circumcision prevents cancer of the penis, cancer of the cervix, and venereal diseases, have been disproven. We now know that the foreskin is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the body.–NOCIRC Pamphlet3

Another fantastic resource is the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (a.k.a. NOCIRC)  This educational, not-for-profit organization which is on the roster of the economic and social council of the United Nations serves as a wealth of information in regard to care of normal penile anatomy and it offers information about circumcision and the care of the circumcised as well as the intact penis.  You can access NOCIRC’s educational publications in both English and Español.

For those contemplating infant circumcision, read “Answers to Your Questions about Infant Circumcision“.  If you’ve made the choice to not circumcise your son, you may now have questions regarding hygeine and foreskin retraction.  You’ll find answers to those questions with this NOCIRC informational article.  You’ll also be able to print out pdf versions of these pamphlets for family members who may question your no circumcision parenting choice.

If you choose to proceed with a circumcision, NOCIRC also has a pahmplet which covers what to expect for post-operative care and any complications which may arise.  International NOCIRC affiliate organizations can be found here.

Before our son was born, and before we knew our baby was a he, we read through NOCIRC literature which helped us to confirm our decision to avoid circumcision.  The American Academy of Pediatrics claims,

the foreskin protects the glans penis throughout life.

This directory compiles research and studies regarding complications, risks, and adverse affects of circumcision.  There are studies that exist that suggest that circumcision may help reduce urinary tract infection (UTI) , but the reality is that there is not a significant nor direct correlation.  Nothing comes secondary to providing and eventually teaching your son good hygiene to prevent UTI’s.

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3 Responses

  1. The foreskin isn’t just there to protect the glans. the inner foreskin is itself the most sensitive part of the penis.

    You may also be interested in the following:

    You might also want to check out the following:

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/fn/fn96-01.htm
    “Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”

    http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/babies/Circumcision.htm
    “Circumcision is a non-therapeutic” procedure, which means it is not medically necessary. Parents who decide to circumcise their newborns often do so for religious, social or cultural reasons. To help make the decision about circumcision, parents should have information about risks and benefits. It is helpful to speak with your baby’s doctor.

    After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions.”

    Royal Australasian College of Physicians
    http://www.racp.edu.au/download.cfm?DownloadFile=A453CFA1-2A57-5487-DF36DF59A1BAF527
    “After extensive review of the literature the Royal Australasian College of Physicians reaffirms that there is no medical indication for routine neonatal circumcision.”
    (those last nine words are in bold on their website, and almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. “Routine” circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia in all states except one.)

    British Medical Association
    http://www.bma.org.uk/ap.nsf/Content/malecircumcision2006?OpenDocument&Highlight=2,circumcision#Circumcisionformedicalpurposes
    “to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate.”

    National Health Service (UK)
    http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/articles/article.aspx?articleId=649“>
    ”Many people have strong views about whether circumcision should be carried out or not. It is not routinely performed in the UK because there is no clear clinical evidence to suggest that it is has any medical benefit.”

    Canadian Children’s Rights Council
    http://www.canadiancrc.com/Circumcision_Genital_Mutilation_Male-Female_Children.aspx
    “It is the position of the Canadian Children’s Rights Council that “circumcision” of male or female children is genital mutilation of children.

    The Canadian Children’s Rights Council position is that there is no medical benefit to the routine genital mutilation (circumcision) of any children (defined by U.N. as those under 18 years of age). Further, all Canadian children, both male and female, should be protected by the criminal laws of Canada with regards to this aggravated assault. Currently, the protection provided by the Criminal Code of Canada includes only genital mutilation (circumcision) of female children.”

  2. Too many discussions on this topic start with circumcision, some not even mentioning what the foreskin is, or what its function/s may be. This is even the position of some anatomical textbooks, defining the foreskin as “the part of the penis removed by circumcision” and showing only circumcised penises.

    Your own discussion is somewhat pessimistic, with circumcision in the US now averaging only 55% and much less in the West. Meanwhile, at least 3/4 of the world’s men are intact, and look with wonder at the US’s strange obsession with reducing men’s pride and joy, and strange demonisation of normal, healthy anatomy that is easy and fun to keep clean. The rest of the English-speaking world tried routine circumcision and gave it up, without any disaster befalling.

    A site that starts from a position that intact, whole, as-born genitalia are normal, is The Intactivism Pages, http://www.circumstitions.com . They have a leaflet for parents-to-be that takes the same position: http://www.circumstitions.com/Itsaboy.html

  3. sorry bout that one. i meant:
    dang, that’s a huge list of resources. here’s one more if you’re interested. it’s a debate on opposingviews.com about infant circumcision. click here if you’re interested. it’s good to see the experts go head-to-head.

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