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Posted on: July 15, 2019 at 8:03 pm
Last updated: August 3, 2019 at 12:49 pm

Some may call it male genital mutilation, and others may think they have no right to make that decision for their sons. Circumcision is the surgical removal of the penal foreskin, and it is done for personal, traditional or religious decision. For Jewish, Islamic, and other religions, circumcision is important an important ritual, usually performed eight days after a son is born for purification and acceptance. The procedure is a medical one (dangerous when performed by non-medical professional) and is best carried out when the child is still at the wake of infancy with soft tissues [1]. The risk of complications is heightened in older children and adults. Atheists and non-traditionalist may also decide to circumcise their sons due to the health benefits the procedure is believed to provide. 

A 2016 international survey estimated that about 38.7% of males around the world are circumcised, with many of them from African countries [2]. It’s a very common practice in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, reasonably common in the U.S, and rarely performed in European countries. 

Pros and cons of circumcision

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There is substantial evidence to believe that males who have undergone circumcision at some point in their lives may have a reduced risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. According to a 2013 study published in the U.S National Library of Medicine, observational trials in the U.S and in Africa have shown that circumcised men have a 51-60% reduced risk of contracting HIV/AIDS [3]. Other health benefits include reduced risk of contracting urinary tract infections, total prevention of balanitis (inflammation of the foreskin), and total prevention of phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin) [4]. However, it is important to mention that proper hygiene practices will reduce the risk of infection in uncircumcised males, and the use of condoms will reduce the risk of contracting STDs.

However, circumcision also has its cons. Firstly, it’s a painful procedure for the child who may be at risk of bleeding excessively. The child is also at risk of contraction infections from the procedure. Circumcision increases the risk of meatitis (inflammation of the urethra), and there is a reduced sensitivity of the penis, which means that circumcised men may experience less pleasure during sex. These are the reasons why many parents choose to let their sons make that decision for themselves.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, although the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, they aren’t so exclusive for the procedure to be recommended universally [5]. At this point both the Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both affirmed that the procedure is no longer medically indicated to all boys at birth [8]. It’s usually advisable for parents to have an extensive discussion with their doctors before deciding the best course of action. 

These moms didn’t go down the snip route

Purewow.com received opinions from six moms as to why they decided not to circumcise their sons [6]. Their reasons centered on a lot of issues, ranging from the inability to take away any sensitivity from their sons to the fear of watching them go through serious pain. 

One mom didn’t even want to circumcise her unborn son at first, and after she saw images of the procedure in a childcare class, her decision was reinforced.

“I’m currently expecting my first child, and although we don’t know what we’re having, we won’t be circumcising him if he’s a boy. I initially left the decision up to my husband (he’s European, where it’s not as common) and would probably have gone along with whatever he decided. That is until they showed us images of the procedure in our childbirth class. After seeing those pictures, I was adamant that we don’t do it!”

Since her husband would be the one to give her sons “the talk”, this mom believed she’d leave them all in the same category since he’s uncircumcised himself. 

“My husband isn’t circumcised, which is why I even considered it to begin with (my family is half Jewish so I was coming from the opposite end of the spectrum). Although I didn’t want my son to be the only one in the locker room not to be snipped, after looking into it, I realized that the statistics in the U.S. are around 50/50. Mostly, it felt easiest for my son(s) to just be like dad because ultimately he needs to explain to them how it all works!”

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A non-religious mom discovered that she had absolutely no reason for circumcising her son, other than the fact that it’s a common practice in America. That wasn’t a good enough reason for her.

“We had our son overseas in the Netherlands. We had planned to get him circumcised after he was born, but a Dutch doctor asked us an important question that made us question our reasoning. ‘Why are you planning to circumcise your son?’ And to be honest, we had never really thought about why we were doing it! We are Episcopalian, so it wasn’t for religious reasons. I embarrassingly blurted to the doctor, ‘because that’s what they do in America!’ After a lot of research (and the scary thought of complications from surgery), we chose not to have him circumcised. If he wants to do it when he’s older, then that’s his choice.”

This pediatrician mom didn’t believe there were any serious medical benefits to be derived from the procedure.

“I watched my first son go through the procedure and was totally traumatized. So, I actually decided against it for my second son. I’m a pediatrician and my view is that unless it’s medically indicated, then it’s not necessary.”

Following her research, she discovered there were medical risks to circumcision. She wasn’t ready to put her son through that.

“My husband is Jewish, and I was originally open to it. However, when I looked into it more, I was surprised and concerned at the medical risks. Having a newborn is hard enough without having to deal with infections and problems as a result of circumcision.”

This mom felt it was not her decision to make for her boy.

“It’s my son’s body and his choice. One day he may decide to do it and I will support whatever he chooses to do.”

The decision to circumcise a child or not is completely up to the parents. The only recommended action is to speak to a pediatrician and understand the benefits and risks before weighing your options. 

Sources:

  1. Admin. Circumcision. American Pregnancy. https://americanpregnancy.org/labor-and-birth/circumcision/. Retrieved 09-07-19
  2. Morris et al. Estimation of country-specific and global prevalence of male circumcision. PMC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4772313/. Retrieved 09-07-19
  3. Tobian & Gray. The Medical Benefits of Male Circumcision. PMC. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3684945/. Retrieved 09-07-19
  4. Admin. Circumcision Basics. Web MD. https://www.webmd.com/sexual-conditions/guide/circumcision. Retrieved 09-07-19 
  5. Admin. Newborn Male Circumcision. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Newborn-Male-Circumcision.aspx. Retrieved 09-07-19
  6. Purewow.com. 6 Real Women on Why They Decided Not to Circumcise Their Son. Yahoo. https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/6-real-women-why-decided-131000499.html. Retrieved 09-07-19
  7. Staff writer. Circumcision (male). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/about/pac-20393550. Retrieved 09-07-19
  8. Newborn Male Circumcision. Canadian Pediatric Society. 
  9. https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/circumcision
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