Debating circumcision

To Cut
Or Not To Cut

Circumcision has always been a touchy subject. Some parents feel it is a very personal decision, arrived at as a result of medical research, personal beliefs, traditions or religious preferences. Other parents find it an unnecessary practice, with some even calling it genital mutilation. Keep reading to learn more about what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about circumcising your baby, as well as the reasons many parents choose to circumcise and the reasons others find the practice unacceptable.

Baby in hospital

For those moms who follow blogs and "happenings" on the internet, the sad death of a baby, following a circumcision procedure, brought out the anti-circumcision activists in full force. His mom, Jill Haskins, found herself defending her family's decision to circumcise their son, whose death, she explained, was the result of a congenital heart condition. The ensuing attention made many parents aware of exactly how heated a debate topic circumcision is -- sometimes leaving those who favor it on the defensive.

The American Academy of Pediatrics' stance

Sometimes, the AAP's position on an issue can help guide parents in one direction or the other. However, with circumcision, their stance leaves parents to decide: "Scientific studies show some medical benefits of circumcision. However, these benefits are not sufficient for [the AAP] to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised. Because circumcision is not essential to a child's health, parents should choose what is best for their child by looking at the benefits and the risks."

Reasons parents choose to circumcise

The AAP offers several reasons for circumcising. Some parents believe in one or more medical benefits:

  • A slightly reduced risk of acquiring a Sexually Transmitted Infection
  • A slightly reduced risk of developing Urinary Tract Infection
  • A reduced risk of penile cancer -- a cancer that is very rare, according to the AAP
  • Avoidance of foreskin infections
  • Less complicated genital hygiene

And others choose to circumcise their children for social purposes -- e.g. Dad is circumcised, he'll look like the other boys, etc. -- or religious and cultural beliefs.

Reasons parents choose not to circumcise

The AAP lists a few reasons parents may decide against circumcision, including the concern about risks -- although it also notes that the risks of circumcision "are rare and usually minor" -- a belief that the foreskin is necessary, a belief that the risk of infection isn't significant, or a belief that circumcision can affect sex.

So, is circumcision really necessary?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 65% of infant boys were circumcised in 1999, the latest year it made statistics available. That means that approximately 35% of newborns were not circumcised. While that's not an even split, it also means that an uncircumcised boy will not be "the only one" who looks different in the locker room.

Anti-circumcision groups would like that 35% increase to 100% and comments left by individuals on the AAP's website fault the agency for glossing over the reasons not to circumcise. Some point to very real and serious risks, such as death.

In fact, many doctors and experts say that the purported medical benefits of circumcising are hardly noteworthy. Popular parenting website Ask Dr. Sears advises that the only reasons to circumcise are religious belief or personal preference, discounting all of the medical reasons listed on the AAP's website.

How do you feel about circumcision?

Do you feel it's a personal parenting choice that should be respected, or do you think it's an unhealthy practice that should stop? Share your opinion in the comment section below.

Tags: circumcision parenting choices

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Comments on "Debating circumcision"

Mother of 5 boys February 14, 2013 | 10:14 AM

Circumcision is wrong. Period. Why would any social or religious belief support the mutalization of children? He was born with it, leave it. It is full of nerve endings. If someone believes in being circumcisized then it's a choice they should be able to make for themselves as an adult. I cannot even believe people are legally entitled to do this. It's appalling.

ChooseYourBirth February 05, 2013 | 12:57 PM

I circumcised my first and left my next two boys whole. I learned my lesson after the first one. I had NO information about circumcision other than it was "just a little cut" and "totally necessary." I never asked questions, I never even considered there was an alternate option. I will always regret my ignorance. My little boy screamed so loud the entire pediatrics office could hear him. He bled for days as he healed and he would scream at every diaper change. I can't imagine an open wound next to urine and feces is healthy or safe. Having had both, it is absolutely UNTRUE that it's more difficult to properly care for a whole penis. It is quite the opposite. After a circ, you need to be extra careful changing baby and cleaning him. I've not experienced ONE problem with my whole boys who are now 5.5yo and 3.5yo. My 10yo son however was recently told about his circumcision and it was a dark day in this house. It was terrible and he was terrified. How can anyone justify this procedure as routine? It simply isn't worth it. My heart aches for the mothers who have lost their babies to RIC. I don't judge them though. I was once just like them and didn't understand how people could be so against something so "normal." In the end, as a parent, you have to decide if it's best for your baby. But remember that when you do circumcise, you are choosing something that will alter your baby for the rest of his life without any real need to do so. And some day, he may ask you to answer for it.

Ali February 05, 2013 | 9:31 AM

Removal of healthy functioning body parts from a child is wrong and unethical regardless of the child's gender. Welcome to the world baby boy, not let's cut you up. Sounds terrifying, awful and wrong because it is. Every mammal on the planet is born with a foreskin. It was not a mistake. How is it that only American men have trouble?? There are no benefits to this barbaric practice. Circumcision has and has always been a cure in search of a disease. Leave little boys alone! Let them decide what happens to their own body. It is NOT a parental decision.

Amber February 04, 2013 | 1:20 PM

Please anyone who is considering circumcising their child for any reason, please do your research. 80% of the world's men are intact and they are not suffering from raging infections or diseases. The foreskin is not a defect. Circumcising a baby is extremely painful and stressful for them, it is not simply just a "snip", the foreskin is there for a reason, it serves a purpose. My son is 10yrs old and intact (not circumcised) and he has never had any issues. Originally I was planning on circumcising him but I luckily stumbled upon information about it and it changed my mind. I am so grateful for that and I think my son is too. Knowledge is power. Protect your sons.

Cat February 04, 2013 | 10:59 AM

Circumcision should be a personal choice. That means the person that it affects personally should get to make the decision. I.E. the child. My son is 3 and we've never had a problem so far. No UTIs. No infections. It's been the easiest thing in the world to keep clean. When intact, don't retract! Just wipe like a finger. First do no harm. Unless there is a medical need, which is extremely rare when proper care is performed, circumcision should not be performed on a child period.

Jessie November 07, 2011 | 9:03 PM

I don't believe BABIES should be circumsized.. Why can't they make the choice themselfs when they get older? They're not going to be 'at risk' or any STDs anytime soon... so let them decide, in the mean time keep there pepe's intacted! Its just cruel.

Moe August 30, 2011 | 10:38 PM

You are all wrong. It should left to the penis's OWNER, not their parent.

less December 22, 2010 | 4:11 AM

Circumcision is better to do on new borns. When I grown older I must go to the hospital for a re-circ and that made my penis very tight (extreme even). I still have no problems with it. I think I missed easy masturbation but it didn't effect my ()life because of it. My 3th wife is very happy with it and only accept that I should be circed before she see ever see my penis. Happy I allready was circed and is pleased it is a tight job. Just like i should be circed in her eyes she told me.

Monica October 29, 2010 | 8:18 AM

It is every parent's personal choice ... the problem is, the person who it affects (the baby) has no say in the matter.

Momma Chaos October 28, 2010 | 6:01 AM

I firmly believe that circumcision is a parent's personal choice. I have three boys - all are circumcised. I'm not saying it's right for everyone but it's what we felt was best for our family.

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