24 Mar
The Foreskin Dilemma: To Circumcise or Not

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

We’re pregnant with our first child and just found out it’s a boy. We now have to decide whether to circumcise him or not. My husband wants him circumcised because he is, but I’m not sure. How can we decide?

Signed,

Possibly Snip Phobic

______________________________________________

Dear Possibly Snip Phobic,

It’s perfectly normal to have a bit of hesitation over snipping your son’s penis. I get stressed out over a trip to the beauty shop to get my hair cut and nobody is restraining my arms and legs during the process (Yes, this is really how the quick circumcision procedure is done in hospitals).

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the benefits aren’t strong enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns and the AAP leaves the decision up to parents. Damn. So much for trying to pass the buck.

Most experts agree that it doesn’t improve personal hygiene because it’s pretty easy to wash under an uncircumcised penis. And there’s no need to clean beneath the foreskin until it retracts on its own, often by age 5.   Some experts believe that circumcision can decrease the risk of urinary tract infections (although newborn boys have a very low rate of UTIs compared to girls). There are also surgical risks and pain associated with procedure.

In the end, if your husband feels strongly about this, you may want to get your son circumcised. But then you absolutely get to pick your son’s name. And what college he goes to. And who he marries. That seems like a fair trade.

But don’t feel like everybody is doing it. Circumcision rates have fallen dramatically in this country. In the 1980’s, 80 percent of male newborns were circumcised. Now only about 40%. So do your research and then have a serious conversation with your husband.

Good luck with your decision,

Kelcey, TMH

34 Responses to “The Foreskin Dilemma: To Circumcise or Not”

03.24.10#1

Comment by Vodka Tonic.

There is so much fuss over a 1mm of skin.

Let’s follow hubby’s logic. What if your husband was born without elbows? Or had them surgically removed at birth, you know, in the name of “tradition.” Would you have your kid’s arms lopped off, just in case you two can’t figure out how to clean them, or your boy is going to ‘look funny’ in comparison to Daddy?

I was “aware” of the pros and cons, and we come from strictly pro-cut, Midwestern corn-fed families. I watched a video of it, and decided not to brutalize my precious newborn.

Then I keeled over with guilt, when my uncirc’ed son got a nasty UTI shortly after birth, and ended up 4 days inpatient on antibiotics. But ALL the pediatricians and nurses on staff reassured me I was crazy for blaming the foreskin.

Two years later, penis and boy have an outstanding bill of health…

vodka tonic Reply:

Oh, I have to follow up on my comment here. We just had another boy this past April. He was born with hypospadias and chordee, a birth defect of the urethra and tethering of the penis. So his little willie was bent like a candy cane and the peepee hole wasn’t in the right spot.

My husband was born with the same thing 38 years ago, and suffered through 4 different surgeries growing up.

My baby just had a small, outpatient surgery to correct everything. He’s five months old. Doing fine. And now he is circumcised, because the surgeon needed that skin for reconstruction. Hooray for foreskins.

So here is the tally:
1- circ’d
1 – uncirc’d

03.24.10#2

Comment by SomeMane.

I got my Circumcision when i was 16 – because public exposure issues (was going to boarding school for boys in Israel) – so i can generally give advice for pros and cons on this one from my personal experience. It feels much more … how you put it… better without the foreskin – and it’s also much cleaner that way – believe me. though i wouldn’t advice doing it in the same age i did (hurts like hell – specially when you see pretty girls on TV) – but when you’re baby – it’s nothing you can remember – and i definitely going to cut my boys (if i’ll have some – currently i’m 29 so it may take couple of years)

03.24.10#3

Comment by Jen.

I was very relieved that my two were both girls, just because I didn’t want to deal with this exact question.

03.24.10#4

Comment by hokgardner.

My son is uncircumcized. I had no opinion on it one way or the other, and my husband was definitely opposed, so I let him make the decision. Our deal was the parent who had the equipment in question got to make the choice.

He’s 3 1/2, and we haven’t had any problems.

03.24.10#5

Comment by Beth.

we had our son circumcised, it wasn’t ever a question that he wouldn’t be. the pediatrician who did it used the plastic ring, i forget what it’s called. it makes a cleaner cut, but it sure is stressful. it stays on for about 2 weeks until the skin dies and then the whole ring falls off. i was so terrified something had been done wrong and he would be mutilated. we did end up taking him in for a visit on a sunday because i was worried about infection, but everything was fine. i think it eneded up falling off right at 2 weeks, so we all breathed a sigh of relief after that.

Rugger1967 Reply:

He is mutilated. Why not put a plastic clamp on you labia minor and clitoral hood until it narcotizes and falls off. I guess that wouldn’t be mutilation. Who are you kidding.

03.24.10#6

Comment by Marinka, The Mouthy Housewives.

My husband and I have the “whoever gives birth to him” gets to decide rule, and it’s worked really well for us.

03.24.10#7

Comment by Karen at French Skinny.

Since I don’t have a penis, I completely passed the buck onto my husband with this one.

03.24.10#8

Comment by Bobbi.

My advice, and the advice of millions of men world-wide, is to choose circumcision for your new baby. Male infant circumcision has been proven to provide a 12 fold reduction in urinary tract infections, 22 fold reduction in invasive penile cancer, elimination of medical issues localized to the foreskin, provide a much less favorable environment for pathogens to create infections, greatly increases penile hygiene and greatly decreases chances of infection by various STDs including HIV by 60%.

The article is incorrect regarding circumcision rates in US. Statistics show the rate well above 70%, so if you circumcise he will be amongst the majority of peers.

Heather Reply:

Actually, the majority of the research that supported the claims of reduced UTI, penile cancer, STD, HIV have been proven flawed and invalid.

See cancer.org for info on the penile cancer claim. cirp.org has resources pointing to correct information on the other false health claims, for those interested.

Bobbi Reply:

Sorry, the worlds best medical organizations stand behind the research that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV & STD infections. See malecircumcision.org

All parents should be aware that there are a great deal of anti-circumcision sites that claim to publish facts and/or refute research. Be wary of search results.

Check out the link to my twitter stream for more information regarding male circumcision.

Restoring Tally Reply:

Well, babies do not get HIV and STDs from sex. So why cut them as babies. Safe sex and condoms prevent HIV, not circumcision.

Medical authorities (regulatory bodies and not organizations pushing an agenda) unanimously do not recommend circumcision.
http://www.CircInfo.org

Darlene Reply:

Bobbi,
I don’t mean to seem harsh or rude, but I find it very odd that someone would have an entire twitter account dedicated to promoting circumcision. I can certainly understand someone having an opinion if circumcision should be done or not and I know not all parents will ever agree. But why in the world are you pushing the hard sale for circumcision for all male babies? I’m not trying to be snarky but do you somehow profit from circumcisions (I assume someone owns the patent for the clamps and what-nots)? Otherwise, I just don’t get the dedication of promoting it. I do understand that you as a parent might feel it’s in your child’s best interest, so I’m not trying to offend.

Rugger1967 Reply:

I smell a perverted circumfetishist.

Kelcey Reply:

The data on circumcision rates in this post comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Bobbi Reply:

So you took the lowest rate for a region within the US, instead of the national average?

It should also be noted that under 5% of hospitals are reporting circumcisions by guidelines. Circumcisions performed after leaving hospital (by urologists, pediatricians, mohel/rabbi, etc) are not reported.

kelcey Reply:

The data is for the entire United States. It is the national average, as stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Bobbi Reply:

Even the official estimates from the AAP are much higher than 40% for the US national average.

03.24.10#9

Comment by Becky.

GREAT advice Kelcey!! That’s the best I have seen on the subject. I came into this thinking I would be all “CUT IT OFF!” but now I’m thinking, huh, that Kelcey has great points.

We are Jewish so, well, there you go.

03.24.10#10

Comment by Heather.

Yes, my husband and I have the same agreement as Marinka and hers.

Having been cut “down there” myself and subsequently sewn up, all without the benefit of anesthesia (much like a newborn), I have to say it hurts like h#ll. Not something I want to put my baby through.

80% of the world’s population isn’t circumcised, and they don’t seem to have much in the way of problems.

03.24.10#11

Comment by Rockthemuffintop.

Wow, I’m always surprised at the passionate answers this question invokes.
I have three boys and none of them are circumcised. The hubs is not, so I figured they could match daddy. Moreover, there seemed to be no point in having it done—I figured if they were born that way, that’s what nature intended? I think the claims about men having problems being unclean when they aren’t circumcised is a bunch of BS. If your guy is a dirty bird, circumcised or not, he’ll be unclean. If he takes care of himself and his, um, privates, he should be good. And if you don’t want HIV, then wear a condom, hello, that’s the bottom line. It’s a personal decision though, and I wouldn’t judge either way–but as far as medical reasons for having it done, I don’t buy it. And apparently, the AAP don’t either.

Rockthemuffintop Reply:

Nice grammar on my comment above! I’d like to strike for the record, “…the AAP don’t either” and state instead, “the AAP DOESN’T either.”

03.24.10#12

Comment by Mark Lyndon.

You can find all these medical society quotes at their own websites:

Canadian Paediatric Society
“Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”
“Circumcision is a ‘non-therapeutic’ procedure, which means it is not medically necessary.”
“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
“After extensive review of the literature, the Paediatrics & Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has concluded that there is no medical reason for routine newborn male circumcision.”
(almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate 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
“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.”

drops in male circumcision:
USA: from 90% to 57%
Canada: from 48% to 32%
UK: from 35% to about 5% (about 1% among non-Muslims)
Australia: 90% to 12.6% (“routine” circumcision has recently been *banned* in public hospitals in all states except one, so the rate will now be a lot lower)
New Zealand: 95% to below 3% (mostly Samoans and Tongans)
South America and Europe: never above 5%

It’s worth remembering that no-one except for Muslim and Jewish people would even be having this discussion if it weren’t for the fact that 19th century doctors thought that :
a) masturbation caused various physical and mental problems (including epilepsy, convulsions, paralysis, tuberculosis etc), and
b) circumcision stopped masturbation.

Both of those sound ridiculous today I know, but if you don’t believe me, then google this to find out what doctors were saying at the time: “A Short History of Circumcision in North America: In the Physicians’ Own Words”. There were even laws against “self-pollution” as it was called.

03.24.10#13

Comment by Michelle.

OK, so I had to let hubby decide this one for us. I don’t really like the idea of doing it, but hubby has one and I don’t, so that is how it went down at our house.

Something to think about, though, is the fact that in some areas of the world FEMALE circumcision was practiced on a regular basis. When I think about it that way, uggg, it sounds horrible! They did it in the US for awhile, but now it is illegal in the US. Huh? Just something to think about.

03.24.10#14

Comment by Kim.

I have three boys and a girl, none of whom were circumcised. We have had no problems, medically or conscientiously with our decision to leave them intact….and we never had to worry about whether a doctor did a hack job on the boys. (My parts were another story, but it was a different doc!)

03.24.10#15

Comment by jen.

two girls and we thought we were free of this discussion. then along came surprise baby #3 … a boy. eek. we both researched BOTH sides. and came to the same conclusion after discussing with out trusted pediatrician.
it’s not a medically necessary surgery.
and our pediatrician assured us that there does not seem to be a lockerroom theory at this point anymore … so many people are choosing NOT to do it.

03.24.10#16

Comment by Restoring Tally.

I thought I would provide one son’s point of view. I am a son who was circumcised at birth. It is my penis, not my parents. I would have preferred to keep all of my penis and not have part of it removed at birth. I would have preferred to decide what body modifications I would have done to MY body. My body, my choice.

I do not blame my parents for allowing part of my penis to be removed. I was not cut for religious reasons. I was cut because it was the thing to do. *sigh*

No normal kid is going to be traumatized by remaining intact. Any kid that is affected by taunting in the locker room or upset that daddy looks different, has other problems that need to be dealt with. Having a foreskin has its advantages. I know because I am restoring mine. The difference is amazing and makes me sad that I spent so much time without one.

03.24.10#17

Comment by thepsychobabble.

There are good arguments on both sides. (Some better than others, whoops, my bias is showing!)
But…you can’t UNcut it, if you decide to go ahead, so if you’re uncertain, I wouldn’t do it.

amy Reply:

Great point. And why we did not have it done to our son.

03.25.10#18

Comment by Darlene.

My step-dad had a circumcision as an adult and he begged us not to ever have any baby boy circumcised (yes, it was an uncomfortable conversation). But my husband is and I figured maybe they should match. Fast forward 8 years of painful infertility…we adopted our first child, a beautiful baby boy. He was already circumcised when we got him so the the decision was made for us. He seems fine and never had any problems.
Fast forward another three years and we adopted another boy. The birth mom asked if we wanted Caleb circumcised or not. We said no. It’s not because of any issue my first adopted son had but the major problems my cousin’s son had. He had major bleeding difficulty after his circumcision and it oozed blood and pus for over a week. The doctor was almost on the verge of re-admitting him for a transfusion but instead they monitored him in an out-patient clinic. My cousin said she regrets having her son circumcised so much. And since my step-father said, uh-hem, everything is worse after a circumcision (he meant sex – shudder the thought), we just decided not to risk anything with our youngest.
Now, if the birth mother had insisted on it, we wouldn’t have fought her over the issue. But since she gave us the choice, it seemed petty to risk so much just so the children would “match”. I don’t think boys care too much about any differences anyway. The uncircumcised boy has never had any trouble either.

03.25.10#19

Comment by anon.

Just a note. I once had a BF who was circumcised and it was not pretty. He had an angry red scar on his penis and the skin was pulled so tight I am sure it must have had something to do with the fact he was a “One Minute Man”, ahem.

Personal choice but I respect the gentleman who felt it was his body, his choice.

We didn’t have son done.

03.30.10#20

Comment by peajaye.

I know I’m late to this party, and I know it won’t change anyone’s mind, but I just wanted to make a couple of points.

#1. Female “circumcision” is not about removing a foreskin; it’s about removing the clitoris and labia. That would sorta be like removing your son’s penis and scrotum (but allowing him to keep his testicles because those are what you need to reproduce).

#2. The foreskin contains many fragile blood vessels, and abrasions are common during sexual and anal intercourse. This is an easy way for HIV to enter one’s bloodstream. Yes, men should wear condoms. And they should put down the toilet seat after they pee. And not kill one another in war or on the streets or really anywhere, in my opinion. But that’s not the world we live in. STD, including HIV, rates are actually increasing worldwide. But I am sure that will never happen to your child. Only other people’s children.

09.16.10#21

Comment by Roze.

Peajaey is sadly mistaken when he says that female circumcision is not about removing a foreskin. My religion Islam clearly lays down that women too have to be circumcised and that what needs to be removed is a little bit of smelly skin covering the clitoris, in other words the clitoral foreskin, also known as the clitoral prepuce or hood.

I had it done as an adult and I’m happy to say that I have no more infections under my hood or UTIs while sex has also improved. Many women today are opting for this hot surgery known as hoodectomy. For more details visit http://www.hoodectomyinformation.com and then let’s hear what you have to say.

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