Circumcision Pros And Cons: Should You Circumcise Your Baby Boy?

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Circumcision pros and cons…It’s an issue that many parents think about if they’re expecting a baby boy. And here’s the thing: Circumcising your baby (or opting not to) once he is born is a personal choice, based on your own religious, cultural, and personal feelings. It is a decision that varies around the world (circumcision is much more common in the United States than Europe, for instance) — perhaps because the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 50 to 60 percent of all male babies are curcumcised in the U.S. If you are debating the pros and cons of circumcision, give yourself plenty of time to think all the facts through before your child is born.”Explore what circumcision means to you, based on your beliefs,” says Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, a Seattle-based pediatrician and mom. Here, Dr. Swanson breaks it all down for us.

What is circumcision?

Boys are born with a glans-foreskin covering over the head of the penis, and a circumcision is the act of cutting back that skin. The 5- to 20-minute circumcising procedure is typically done on newborns two days to two weeks after birth by a pediatrician or obstetrician. “There are different techniques,” Dr. Swanson says, and suggests that families follow their practitioner’s advice and preferred method. Alternately, a holistic circumcision or “bris” is performed by a Rabbi or a Jewish circumciser, called a mohel, typically eight days after birth at home or in a religious setting. It is important to know that although quick, the circumcision procedure is painful and babies will cry. Most practitioners will use either a topical or injectable anesthetic, acetaminophen, and/or something like a sugar cube to suck on to reduce the pain, followed by breastfeeding or cuddling to calm the baby down. After the procedure, the penis usually heals within a week or two.

Circumcision pros and cons: What are they?

According to the AAP, there are several circumcision pros. A circumcised baby often avoids urinary tract infections and penile cancer (neither of which are especially common in uncircumcised boys, however). And studies show that circumcision may reduce the likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (like HIV and HPV). Additionally, many find that the circumcised penis is easier to clean and less likely to harbor smegma (the gunk that collects beneath the foreskin), although Dr. Swanson says that most uncircumcised (or intact) boys can care for their own penises by learning to pull the skin back, rinsing, and cleaning behind the foreskin properly.

There are a few cons of circumcision, such as bleeding and local infection (inflammation of the urethral opening, for instance), both of which can be treated easily with an antibiotic ointment, says Dr. Swanson. Parents may be worried about penile injury during the procedure, which is unlikely., she adds. Although some parents have expressed concern that not enough of the foreskin was removed, Dr. Swanson says that additional surgery is very rare.

What does the AAP’s position on circumcising your baby really mean?

Although the AAP clearly states that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, they go on to explain that the benefits do not mean circumcision is recommended for every male baby, simply that those who choose the procedure are justified, and permitted to have it paid for by insurance.

Is it possible to wait and circumcise your child later?

Yes. However, according to Kids Health, once a child is past the newborn stage the procedure can be more complicated and may even require general anesthesia.

Still unsure whether circumcising your child is a good idea? Take some time before your son is born to discuss your feelings, concerns, and motivations with your partner and your healthcare provider. Consider the circumcision pros and cons. Think about what the norm is in your family or town. Also, consider your cultural and religious beliefs to consider, as well as how you feel about the practice of altering a baby’s penis. Ultimately, whether you circumcise
your baby is up to you.

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Photo: Getty