Should My Baby Boy Be Circumcised? Weighing the Evidence

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baby yawnCircumcision is a procedure from ancient times that has carried over to modern society. It is considered essential for Jewish males, who are circumcised by a mohel on their 8th day of life. Muslims, too, circumcise infants. It is still a religious or cultural necessity for Jews, Muslims, and many different tribes in Africa, in which adult circumcision is often done. It is a very common procedure for infants in the United States, but less so in Europe.

Circumcision involves removing a part of the foreskin of the penis. An infant’s foreskin is up around the glans of the penis. Over the first few years of life, the foreskin separates from the skin of the penis, and it becomes retractable. Once it is retractable, it is somewhat difficult to clean. The skin has secretory glands, and a substance called smegma accumulates. The area can get infected with bacteria.

Foreskin removal is a surgical procedure, albeit a usually small and quick procedure. It still involves cutting or clamping of skin, which can result in bleeding, infection, and in very rare cases, damage can be done to the penis. It also causes pain. Whereas in the past, doctors often performed it on newborn babies without anesthesia, it is now the norm to provide local anesthesia.

Why do so many Americans chose this procedure for their babies if it is not for religious or cultural reasons? Many parents believe it is more hygienic to remove the foreskin. Many of the men have been circumcised, and they believe that their sons will want to look like them in that way. They also believe that their sons will want to look like most of the other boys. While there are possible complications, millions of babies are circumcised without any problem.

It can be argued that the possibility of future problems is not a good enough reason to remove the foreskin of every male baby. This debate has gone on century after century, and decade after decade. Some of the new evidence to support the procedure includes the fact that circumcision appears to protect men from many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This includes HIV (the AIDS virus), HPV (human papillomavirus, genital warts), chlamydia, and possibly others. It also lowers the incidence of urinary tract infections. Because of the decreased incidence of HPV, there may be less penile cancer and less cervical cancer in women whose partners are circumcised.

If you are trying to decide what to do if you have a baby boy, you can certainly talk to your doctor and get his or her advice. If the procedure is going to be done in the hospital, you should find out if anesthesia is going to be used.

If you decide against circumcision, you need to learn how to clean the area as the baby gets older. You should not attempt to retract the foreskin of an infant. After two or three years, when the skin becomes retractable, you must carefully clean the area. Eventually, your baby will grow up and will need to do it himself. As for the STDs, using a condom provides more protection. However, from a public health point of view, anything that reduces the spread of STDs is a good thing.

This is one surgical procedure that does not have a definite yes or no in terms of performing it on a baby. There is a constant back-and-forth of opinion. There are people who feel very strongly for it, as well as against it. At this time, the pendulum seems to be swinging back more towards recommending circumcision.

Should an uncircumcised boy grow up and have trouble with his foreskin in terms of serious infections, he may wind up with the surgery as an adult, which can be both very painful and also psychologically traumatic. That thought may be one of the reasons why parents chose to have infants circumcised.

What do you think? Should My Baby Boy Be Circumcised? Weighing the Evidence

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17 comments

  1. Avatar of Marilyn Marilyn says:

    I won’t. It sounds unnecessary.

  2. It is a hard choice. This was our first baby and he kept crying after he had got his done. Not sure if we will do it again.

  3. Many women like the looks, and adult circumcisions are hard to come by, so that should be a factor as well.

  4. Avatar of fossey2 fossey2 says:

    "Lowers the risk of penile cancers in adult men"…maybe I should remove my breasts, ovaries, uterus etc.. to lower my risk of cancer. "May help reduce infection and/or swelling to penis"…well jeesh…I get horrendous yeast infections that causes redness and swelling despite my efforts to avoid it…maybe I should try to reduce the swelling by having my labia removed??? "May also reduce the risk of sexually transmitted diseases"….rather than slicing off a part of the body that GOD created…maybe we should teach our children better moral values and monogamy with a husband or wife…something MANY people have forgotten God intended as well. What’s left? UTI’s…..women get them…men get them….keeping yourself clean is the BEST way to avoid this for MOST people…not hacking off parts of your body. Just my opinion. After hearing from my good friend who is a Ped’s nurse that she spent a good 20 minutes applying "pressure to a newborns penis" to keep him from hemorrhaging after a botched circumcision…I chose NOT to have this done to my boys……to each his own I suppose.

  5. Avatar of Elfie Elfie says:

    I think it’s funny how some people care so much about my sons penis :/

  6. Avatar of Linda Linda says:

    Considering all the pros and cons on this "tissue issue" I feel compelled to go with what would be best for my son over his lifetiime. I think ,all things considered, it’s best and more healthy to have him circumcised when he is born.My OB/GYN does this. I certainly trust her expertise in this department since she has done hundreds of circumcisions

  7. Avatar of Freynugget Freynugget says:

    I have been looking for information on circumcision that would provide both sides of evidence and look at the entire picture. I must say this is one of the best articles to help make a decision on circumcision or not. From the anatomy aspect, to disease and cancer, to possible adulthood and aesthetics. Thank you for such a great article and I will actually base my personal decision from the thoroughness of this article.

  8. Avatar of Valerie Valerie says:

    Every guy that i know that is not circumcised complains about how hard it is to clean. And its even painful during sex. Therefore I will have my son circumcised for these reasons.

  9. Avatar of Angelwings Angelwings says:

    not sure who my baby will be but if I have a boy yes to circumcision at a young age. I know of a gentleman that had it done as an adult, he’s still cursing at his parents for not doing it when he was a baby.

  10. Avatar of Swasey Swasey says:

    A lot of paper written about advanteges and disadvanteges of this. But parents should desided what they will to do.

  11. Avatar of Hope Hope says:

    I was for circumcision until I thought about the comparison with female circumcision. Female circumcision is a practice to lessen sexual pleasure. Male circumcision is the same thing. It was brought up as a way to make men desire sex less. After that I decided if we were to have a boy we would leave him uncircumcised and let him decide on is own later in life if he wanted to be or not.

  12. Avatar of Brittney Brittney says:

    Before I weigh in with my opinion, I want to say that I do not care if you do or do not plan/or have gotten your son circumcised. I am not trying to start an argument with anyone.

    Second, I got my son circumcised. I DID my research, told the baby’s father what I would like to do but ultimately left the decision up to him. He is uncircumcised and he decided he would like our son circumcised.

  13. Avatar of Julie Julie says:

    We are having a girl, but if the ultrasound happens to be wrong we would be getting a boy circumcised.

  14. sweeneysindigo

    Shame on the author of this article. Not only providing misinformation, but advoacting for the forced genital cutting of an unconsenting minor. Not your body and not your choice. A parent’s first job is to protect their child, not remove parts of him that don’t aestheically appeal to the parents. Whose body—whose choice? Whom has to live with the effects of this procedure for life? That’s right, the owner of the penis. Let him decide when is is able to CONSENT to body modifications, that offer no health benefit to a neonate.

  15. Avatar of Sarah Sarah says:

    Well, seeing as how there isn’t a medical association on Earth that recommends it, the "study" that proves it cuts down on HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa was debunked and retracted, and even the American Cancer Society says it’s not worth the menial cut in rate of penile cancer, I’d say NO, your baby boy shouldn’t be circumcised. If it’s not your own penis, you have no more right to cut off part of it than I do to cut off my daughter’s clitoral hood (the same skin, affected by different hormones).
    No one has the right to make this sacrifice for another person unless there is a clear medical necessity.

  16. Avatar of Sarah Sarah says:

    Why isn’t it mentioned that more than 100 infants die from complications each year? That seems like something that should be weighed if we are in fact "weighing the evidence". Ignoring fact doesn’t make it safer. I’m really surprised that such drivel was allowed to be posted. Parents look to doctors for information and this is one-sided and lacks facts and statistics. I could list the benefits of female surgical circumcision, that doesn’t mean they outweigh the risks and the total disregard for human rights to genital integrity.

  17. Avatar of Sarah Sarah says:

    I can’t get over how biased this article is. It’s so obvious what the author’s opinion is of this cosmetic surgery:(
    "It is a very common procedure for infants in the United States, but less so in Europe." ?!?!
    Only 1/3 of infants in the US were cut in the last 5 years. And in Europe, very few babies are cut. "Less so??" Let’s tell it like it is: Infants are rarely cut in Europe and they have lower infection and STD rates than the US. So, the continent is proof that circumcision doesn’t do what this author wants to pretend it does.

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