Circumcision: Good or Bad? The CDC Says…

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So, I'm going to be touching on a tender subject today (pun intended). It's extremely tender to me because I actually had to have the procedure performed on me twice when I was a baby.

But that's another story for another day.

The Center for Disease Control just put together a draft of a set of guidelines that say two things, one of those things being that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks, and the other thing being that insurance companies should offer coverage. (Ha. Coverage.)

Some of the outcry over having the procedure done is that the baby has absolutely no say in the matter whatsoever and has to undergo such a painful thing. Other issues that people have brought up have been concerning future sexual activity. The argument has been that 50% of the nerves in the penis are in the foreskin.

{ MORE: The ABC's of Circumcision }

They're just trying to look out for little boys' future sex lives, so I guess you can't fault them there.

The CDC did come out with some specifics about their findings, those specifics being that circumcision can …

  • “Cut a man’s risk of getting HIV from an infected female partner by 50 to 60 percent,
  • “Reduce their risk of genital herpes and certain strains of human papillomavirus by 30 percent or more, and
  • “Lower the odds of urinary tract infections during infancy and cancer of the penis in adulthood.”

Over the past ten years, information about the benefits of circumcision has become even clearer, according to Dr. Aaron Tobian, a Johns Hopkins University researcher. But even though that information has been prevalent, only about 1 in 2 baby boys have the procedure performed on them.

I can kind of see both sides of the issue. I mean, on the one hand, the baby has absolutely no say in the matter as to whether or not they want to have part of their penis cut off, and it is their body. (But, then again, babies don't have a lot of say about anything that happens to them e.g., vaccines, what they eat, sleep training).

{ MORE: Should My Baby Boy Be Circumcised? Weighing the Evidence }

But then on the other hand, if you are aware of some of the health complications that could be present if your baby goes without being circumcised, how does that influence your decision making process, since the baby can't decide?

Let me know in the comments!

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What do you think?

Circumcision: Good or Bad? The CDC Says…

Jace Whatcott is a self-diagnosed introvert who loves crossword puzzles, golf, and reading. Despite being a male contributor—one of the few on this particular website—he is not in unfamiliar territory. Because he is an English major, 90% of his classmates are females, so he’s not too worried about being a fish out of water. One of his favorite things to do is to raid local thrift stores for used books. He’s always looking for something to read, or for something to put on his endless to-r ... More

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60 comments

  1. Chinna says:

    My fiance and I chose to get our son circumcised. I nearly lost a very good long time friend because of our decision, which was a little silly. She said that what we did was inhuman, and cruel. But I told her how it would benefit him when he’s older, and even during his procedure, he didn’t even cry. He’s mommy’s strong champ ^_^. Like Jenna said, this procedure has been around since biblical times, and there’s nothing cruel, inhuman, or “weird” about it. Because if he chooses to get the procedure done later in life due to events (infection, etc), he would feel pain.

  2. Jenna says:

    Comparing circumcision to female genital mutilation only shows people’s ignorance. Female genital mutilation is performed with the intention that females feel no pleasure and in fact, pain, during intercourse. The procedure creates so much scar tissue that women have to be cut open in order to have sex, and that sex is often forced on them. This is NOTHING at all like circumcision. People need to stop acting like it is. Do your research, or you downplay the atrocity of genital mutilation. These women who suffer from this injustice, which happens at an age where they remember EVERYTHING, would tell you it is not even close to the same thing. A similar act would be complete removal of the penis with a rock, which is how genital mutilation is performed, not just the foreskin. It is a completely sadistic practice. Circumcision has been around since Biblical times, if performed as an infant, men do not remember any pain, and the, OBVIOUSLY, still feel plenty of pleasure during sex and really has no ill effects if the procedure is not a memory.

  3. jamie says:

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I have three girls and two boys; I chose not to circumsize bc it is not natural. They are born with foreskin AND shall keep it, neither boy has ever had problems and my husband is not circumsized either. As far as sex goes for when they’re older they need to take care of themselves so they do not get an std or infection

  4. Krista says:

    I have 4 boys, none of them were circumcised, my father in law was a doctor, after he explained to me all he had seen when he worked in the hospital it was enough to convince me to not have it done. None of my boys have ever have infections, it’s called teaching them to clean it properly no different than little girls getting utis all the time from not cleaning properly. I think everyone should see this link for more information: http://www.drmomma.org/2009/08/penn-teller-circumcision-documentary.html

  5. Zoe says:

    My father was not circumcised as an infant, as I’m sure most of the men his age were not. Consequently, he has had many problems with infections over the years. He finally got to a point when it was so swollen and inflamed he could not pull it back to clean it, could not participate in any sexual activities, could not urinate without extreme pain, so the doctors suggested having it removed at that time. Hearing his story of being circumcised in his 50’s and the horrific experience that he endured was enough to make my decision for any of my future sons. Although, my husband is also circumcised, I was not concerned with wanting to ‘Look like Daddy’s’, our decisions were based solely on medical experiences.

  6. frances says:

    I choose to have my son circumcised even though his dad, brother and grandfather are not. His pediatrician was even disgusted with me for having the procedure done. I can teach him to clean and use condoms but I will not be with him 24/7. I have seen how being in a hurry causes leaks all over a boys pants and how unforgiving kids can be to each other. Same as when they are adults it only takes one infected partner to infect him and condoms do not protect everything. You can still get hpv and his while using the condom. I am not saying circumcision is right or wrong but when parents come at me and say it’s wrong I point to their young daughters ears and say did she give consent for that cosmetic procedure to be done? Just my opinion.

  7. Keshawn says:

    If Jesus was circumcised, then my son will be too… also men that are not circumcised cause women to have more yeast, and bacterial infections, also cervix cancer… every person have there reasons & those are mine

  8. lana says:

    If this baby is a boy, he will be circumcized. My personal reasoning behind this is because, I work in a health care environment with a lot of the elderly population. Many of them tell me that they wish that circumcision was more popular when they were young because they have issues. Once they became unable to care for themselves (or even when they could) they started to get many fungal, bacterial, and yeast infections. Many also end up with very dangerous UTI’s. The process is also a lot more painful as the penis grow IE when the child gets older due to more sensitivity in the nerves. The recovery time is also more extensive then when they are infants or newborns. Could you imagine getting an accidental erection after getting your penis cut? There are issues to both sides. Infection risks if you get it done, loss of sensation, etc just like there are issues to not getting it done. It is a very personal issue and I feel like a health care provider should give out the most information possible to make a good, educated decision. Not just off assumptions.

    • Kelsey says:

      Working in the medical field is exactly why I had my son circumcised. I’ve worked in a nursing home and have taken care of patients that were not circumcised. It is true when they can’t take care of themselves and the infection and problems that come with it.

  9. Princess says:

    honestly when I hear about circumcision of baby boys I grimaced the same way as if it’s genital mutilation. Call me strange but tomorrow is not promised to me. Each morning I arise I want to be the reason my babies smile. I want them to feel love and trust that mommy will protect them with every bone in her body. It’s bad enough to watch them get shots and the horrifying looks they give me. The world is full of pain my job is to protect them even from traditions. When he’s older I will bring it up and support his decision.

  10. happy mommy says:

    The decision to have your son circumcized is an individual choice. We had my step son circumcised at the age of 5 for medical reasons. Yes he was in pain but believe it or not he once told me it hurt worse when his tonsils were removed. When we had our second son 5 months ago it was a no brainer to have the procedure. They are infants and will never remember the pain. Coming from a small town in highschool boys would make fun of others who weren’t circumcised. As patents it was our choice to make and everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the subject.

  11. buttercupcrb says:

    My midwife has 3 decades of experience with babies and says that the “actual risks” of not circumcising are almost non existent. My son is almost a year and a half and hasn’t had any problems. My husband is over 40 and hasn’t had any problems either. Those were our reasons to not circumcise.

  12. RB says:

    I was circumcised for medical reasons at the age of five and, thirty years later, I still feel nothing but resentment toward my parents for approving with the procedure. The idea that I would ever have to put my own son through the physical, emotional and psychological agony of circumcision distresses me greatly.

    There has, quite rightly, been much made of the barbarity of female genital mutilation in recent years. That we should countenance adopting a similar procedure as “standard practice” is utterly barbaric.

    • Chinna says:

      Im really sorry that you had to go through that at age five. I thing you’re parents where misinformed about circumcising you while up in an impressionable age. Baby boys are suppose to get this done eight days after being born, not age five. Had it been done during infancy, you wouldn’t remember. But I believe there intentions where not to harm you. But to make you’re life easier. Female circumcision is totally different from male. Female is like taking fangs away from a snake, so the female can feel any pleasure, just pain. In some tribes is this only to keep the woman from being promiscuous . You didn’t get you penis cut off, but is like that for women, especially in parts of Africa. Even having children is more painful for these women. Im not bashing, im just informing that what you’re saying is two completely different things. Take care ^_^

  13. Tamara says:

    Personally I don’t care if one parent chooses to circumsize and another doesn’t. Thats their choice All those lovely things and facts and statistics provided by the CDC is great but ultimately the best thing to protect our children from getting diseases like HIV, genital herpes, and HPV is education and prevention not circumcision. Its not circumcision that makes you less like to come across these things. It’s abstinence and if you are having sex,protection and limiting your sex partners. I’m a firm believer in if you teach your children the right way they in are in genereal circumcized or not less likely to be faced with those complications. As far as UTI’s go yes they are painful especially for little babies but if your on diaper duty propmptly I’m sure you’ll have less problemswith that as well.

  14. megan says:

    I don’t agree with circumcision. Actually when the nurse came in I had agreed to do it but once she took him I started feeling bad for my baby. I called the nurses station and told them to quickly stop my doctor from doing the procedure. And luckily she was just getting ready. She came into my room all worried and I don’t her that I was sorry but I just can’t let that happen to my baby. It wasn’t necessary thing just cosmetic. My son is 19 months and in perfect health. I keep him clean and I will teach him when he gets older. Very happy with my decision.

  15. Nadege says:

    There is no anesthesia used on poor babies? You’re incorrect. My baby boy just turned a month and I had it done when he was a week old, and 1 week later it was healed. Yes, the Dr used anesthesia! It is completely necessary for my baby boy. I paid for it myself, my insurance refused to pay for it. You don’t have to agree with my decision, I don’t have to agree with yours.

  16. Erica says:

    The proper context of these studies is in Africa (where they were done, and not done well) and where condoms are not widely available or used. Circumcision does nothing to protect from pregnancy, and has many potential affects including making sex uncomfortable (if you do your research you will learn that it only became popular because Kellogg was trying to stop boys from masturbating, he also was a huge advocate of enemas, but I don’t see all these pro-circ parents getting those regularly) up to and including permanent disfigurement and the death of a perfectly healthy baby boy.
    No one in America should be using circumcision to protect from HIV. They should be using a condom. Also, the type of cancer they claim it lowers the risk of is so unlikely to ever occur, its of extremely negligible benefit when compared with the much more likely risks of having permanent issues.
    It is shocking that we think it is ok to surgically alter our baby boys without their consent. I weigh the risk of every medical procedure I put my baby boy through. I can’t imagine that circumcision is worth the risk because a parent is unwilling to teach their child to use a condom or a little soap when they wash. My father, brother, husband, and son are all intact, and have never had any issue. This includes my dad’s service in Vietnam with very limited access to showers and cleanliness.

    • Jenna says:

      Actually, circumcision became popular WAAAY back when God told the Jews they were to be circumcised. Even if you don’t believe in God or the Bible, I can tell you that circumcision was around (and popular) way before Kellogg. He was not original in his thought, he was not a creator of this.

    • Stacy says:

      Thank you for bringing up the actual flawed studies used to come to this conclusion.
      I only worry that people are making their decision based on flawed studies and incorrect statistics, rather than doing research into the matter personally.

  17. Scarlett says:

    In the context of circumcision, why would “a baby” be a “their” and not a “his”?

  18. FamilyOf7 says:

    Thanks, Jace, for being willing to speak about this despite its unpopularity right now and all the criticism you’ll likely receive. I’ve researched circumcision and vaccines and believe both outweigh the risks. Especially thank you for speaking up as a man on this topic.

    • lana says:

      I like that a man that has had it not done once, but twice, has given his opinion and facts on it. I enjoyed the read and it didn’t feel as though a woman was trying to persuade me in one way or another.

  19. shakeisha says:

    I won’t say it’s bad but it is unnecessary. If I have a son, he will not be circumcised because my husband has never had the procedure and has never contracted any disease, virus, or, infection. I personally think there are no benefits to it that a condom or abstinence can’t solve.

  20. Regan says:

    Hmmm… “Cut a man’s risk of getting HIV from an infected female partner by 50 to 60 percent” ? How about some figures on what CONDOMS do to cut the man’s risk? Perhaps as a culture if we looked away from mutilating our unable to consent infant children – and taught them about safe sex practices instead – then we could do away with 100% of the circumcision surgery complications/risks while still protecting them against AIDS.

    The d@mn CDC is, right there, giving a lot of willfully ignorant mom’s, dad’s and circumscised men the “go ahead” on unsafe sex, in my opinion…cause hey, your foreskin is gone and that’s 35% of the risk right there, so why bother with a condom?

    “Reduce their risk of genital herpes and certain strains of human papillomavirus by 30 percent or more? know what also cuts the risk of genital herpes? Educating them on the risks of STDS when they’re promiscuous and practicing unsafe sex! It’s called parenting…and it should be done before you put an infant who can’t say “no” to a surgery he didn’t ask for.

    I wonder if the CDC ever trots out some numbers on female circumcisions reducing the risks of some diseases by a slight number if we’d have a rash of people running their infant daughters to the hospitals for clitorendectomies? Same practice – different gender, yet we’re all outraged by that when we hear of little girls getting cut in other countries….but ground it in your own tradition and “it just looks nice” values and suddenly it’s ok.

  21. Lindsey says:

    Definitely BAD! There is no question in my mind other than, how could anyone believe that an unnecessary cosmetic surgery, that is clearly a violation of human rights, whereas the owner of the penis has no say in the removal of his own foreskin, could be a good thing?

    There is nothing good about faulty recommendations based on unreliable studies conducted in AFRICA, not in the US, misleading parents into thinking that there are any benefits to circumcision or that ANY risks are worth taking.

    The only risk worth taking is the one you are already taking, can you be a good parent and teach your son proper hygiene, and that he should use a condom? Or is it just more convenient to cut off 20,000 fine nerve endings and shove his mutilated penis into a diaper filled with urine and feces (does that sound cleaner?) and hold false hope that he won’t ever contract HIV because you had him circumcised?

    As far as the claims that the CDC is making…
    “Cut a man’s risk of getting HIV from an infected female partner by 50 to 60 percent:”
    First of all, only 1 in 10 US HIV contracted cases are female to male and circumcision admittedly does not protect from male to male HIV contraction.

    “Reduce their risk of genital herpes and certain strains of human papillomavirus by 30 percent or more”
    Secondly, TEACH YOUR SON ABOUT SAFE SEX AND USING PROTECTION AND/OR ABSTINENCE UNTIL MARRIAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!! Condoms have a better protection rate than circumcision ever could!

    And Finally,
    “Lower the odds of urinary tract infections during infancy and cancer of the penis in adulthood.”
    Preventing UTI’s should not be reason enough to allow your sons penis to be mutilated! Females get UTI’s WAY MORE FREQUENTLY than males and they are TREATED WITH AN ANTIBIOTIC!!!!!!! Not to mention, FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) was outlawed in the US in 1997. Sick right?…less than 20 years ago…but at least their rights are protected…so should your sons rights be!
    As far as the penile cancer…the risk of a male getting penile cancer is FAR LESS than the risk of a male getting breast cancer…so if you are planning to have your perfect son mutilated to prevent penile cancer, you better go ahead and have his breast buds removed first because in this argument, that would be far more preventative.

    DO YOUR RESEARCH! CIRCUMCISION IS A HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION and males should be protected equally just as females are. STOP PUTTING MONEY INTO THE HANDS OF GREEDY DOCTORS DOING HARM TO YOUR CHILDREN.

  22. MARYAM says:

    If this procedure is done within the first month after birth by a skillfull doctor, then it should be worry free and painless and yes, the benefits outweigh the risks, and no, it’s not seldom among religious ppl, but the opposite; as a matter of fact, check how this order of God is emphasized in the Bible to be followed by prophets and all believing males; all three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) require specifically this procedure. One cannot just take the part they like from their religion, as religion is not a market place…Unless one feels above their religion and see only from inside their box…

    • DAWNMARIE says:

      To each his own, but I do have to interject something here. Circumcision was not part of Christian doctrine. It is from Old Testament. Circumcision was a covenant made between the Jewish people and God. When Jesus was born, a new covenant was made. Anyone who believe in Jesus, Christians, no longer had to be circumcised b/c that was part of the old covenant. Circumcision became popular in the US in the 50s during the Cold War, where the god fearing Christian Americans separated themselves from the “ungodly Russians.” Either way, I will not be circumcising my son. I prefer education over a scalpel.

    • Tanya says:

      Although this statement makes no since i will respond with this. That was an outward way to show their Christianity now we show this by being baptisms and by receiving the holy spirit so their is no religoi need for circumcision and indeed it was very different in biblical times as to how the procedure was performed with just a snip being made to the foreskin where it attaches to men compared to circumcision today where the foreskin is actually removed from babies.

    • Lindsey says:

      What a joke…painless! I think NOT! There is no anesthesia used and the poor helpless babies go into SHOCK! There are NO benefits if it is not a medically necessary procedure. Circumcision in the bible is not the same AT ALL as the way circumcisions are performed today, AND it is from the OLD TESTAMENT.

      • alvin says:

        Circumcisions can be done skillfully and with little to no pain if done correctly. Hire a Jewish Molel, this is a person who is trained to perform circumcision on Jewish boys. He is an expert because he does a least 5 or more a week. So if you’re thinking of having it done hire a specialist not a doctor in the hospital who does it just when asked.

      • Julia says:

        I absolutely agree with you Lindsey! I couldn’t stand watching a video of how the procedure is done, it’s WAY FAR from painless!! Doctor in video also did not use anesthesia…the poor baby cried his lungs out!! Beyond cruel! What shocks me the most however, is when I hear parents doing this procedure because don’t want their sons to be picked in School…I believe that when we teach our children Love, Confidence and Respect they will know exactly what to do if this situation ever arises. No boy should ever have to go through circumcision just for the looks. After watching that video my husband and I knew that we would never put our son through such a pain. I have a nine years old who is not circumcised and never had UTI, he knows all about the necessary hygiene…retract skin (it fully retracts since he was seven), soap and water! How difficult is that to teach your children?! My husband is not circumcised and neither any of his three brothers, they never had any problems!! Think twice about all the risks involved when putting your infant through an unnecessary surgery.

      • Regan says:

        Exactly!! at least from a Christian pov…circumcision was an old testament practice right along with stoning people for fornication, unwed pregnancies, adultery and divorce. Embrace it all -and do the jail time when you start chunking rocks at people – or educate yourself on your religion and move on!

  23. janette says:

    I just cannot understand how parents can even contemplate putting their perfect infant boys through a totally unnecessary cosmetic surgical procedure, with the associated pain and distress. A newborn is so precious and perfect, and entirely dependent on its parents for protection. Doesn’t it break your heart when they bang their heads, or get scratched, and cry in pain, and you voluntarily put them through this procedure? If your child is born with no medical problems, thank God, because a lot of parents are not that lucky, and have the agony of attending their child in hospital through no fault of their own. You believe that God made a mistake? All baby boys are born flawed, and need human correction? Such arrogance!

  24. janette says:

    Follow the money. American doctors get paid for carrying out cosmetic surgery on the genitalia of male infants. Circumcision is not done (except rarely for religious reasons) in any other industrialised country in the world. Strangely, their adult males are not dropping like flies from various diseases, but are perfectly healthy…

  25. Melanie says:

    I had never really given much thought to circumcision before I backs a mom. It was something that I just accepted was necessary and part of my culture as an American. I always assumed that if I ever had a son, he would be circumcised. Then I had the unfortunate experience of observing a circumcision while in nursing school. It was horrible and I knew then that I would never put a child though that even if they didn’t remember the pain. Granted I did not become a Peds nurse so that was my only personal observation – thank God 🙂 When I became pregnant with my son I began extensively researching the matter. I read medical studies and journal reviews. I obviously made the decision not to circumcise and i feel great that I was able to advocate for my child in that way. But I understand that other parents feel differently and no one should be made to feel bad about doing what they think is the right thing for their child. There are plenty of great parents who feel that in circumcising their child, they too are advocating for their childs well being. It is your decision or as in my case, it is my childs decision bc I am allowing him to make that choice for himself. We chose to be responsible for our own education so that we could make the most informed decision for our child. Based on our findings we decided not to circumcise and we decided to vaccinate- both decisions that are right for us and our child. If your torn on this issue I encourage you to educate yourself and then feel good about your choice, regardless what others think, bc being a parent is hard enough without allowing the rest of the world to beat you for having the courage to do what you think is right. When it comes to parenting, no one has all of the right answers.

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