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The Circumcision Debate

The Circumcision Debate

Deciding whether to circumcise your newborn son can be a difficult task for some. The surgical procedure, which involves cutting away the skin that covers the end of the penis, is typically done in the days following birth. There are personal, cultural, religious and health reasons to weigh when making the decision.

Currently, an estimated 60 percent of newborn boys in the United States are circumcised. However, these numbers may be dropping since many health groups now consider the procedure medically unnecessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that while there are medical benefits to having the procedure the evidence is not strong enough to recommend routine circumcision. Here are some facts about circumcision you may want to consider:

  • It lowers a newborn's risk of urinary tract infections during the first year Infants who are circumcised have a 1 in 100 chance of developing a UTI, while an uncircumcised newborn has a 1 in 1,000 chance. "The risks associated with UTIs include kidney damage and generalized infection, though both of these are a rare event," says Alan Fleischman, M.D., senior vice president of medicine at New York Academy of Medicine and a professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
  • It reduces the risk of penile cancer Men who aren't circumcised may be more prone to low-grade viral infections which can predispose them to cancer, says Dr. Fleischman. That said, penile cancer occurs rarely in both circumcised and uncircumcised males. 
  • It decreases the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases Research shows that circumcised men have a slightly lower risk of contracting AIDS and HIV.
  • It hurts Some research indicates that infants who are circumcized without any medication to block the pain may be more sensitive to pain in the future. If you opt for circumcision, discuss pain relief options with your doctor beforehand. There are anesthetics that can be injected to block pain and there's also a anesthetic cream called Emla that many hospitals now use to reduce pain.
  • Complications can arise While most are not serious, infection, bleeding, a too-long or -short foreskin, and urinating problems can occur. Most of these problems can be corrected. As for claims that circumcision decreases sexual pleasure by desensitizing the head of the penis, the AAP says that currently there is no medical evidence to support this.

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About The Author

Maureen Connolly is the managing editor of Your Baby Today. Her work has also appeared in Parenting, Parents, Ladies' Home Journal, and Redbook. She's mom to Jack Henry, 2.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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