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To circumcise or not to circumcise: a heated topic

tocircumcisetopic.jpgOne of the most heated topics I’ve come across in parenting magazines, parent discussion forums on the internet, and just out there in general, is that of circumcision. While some parents are certain about whether or not to circumcise their newborn sons, based upon strong personal preference, religious practices, or other reasons, many struggle with the decision of whether or not to have the procedure performed.

While there are some possible health benefits which come from circumcision, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not believe them to be strong enough to actually recommend circumcision.

The U.S. has a higher circumcision rate for non-religious reasons than any other country. Statistics have changed drastically over the past few decades, however, with the rate of circumcised newborn boys in the U.S. being 60% in some parts of the country, as compared to 90%, 30 years ago. In contrast, the circumcision rate is 46% in Canada and 24% in the UK.

Possible health benefits of circumcision include a slightly lower risk of penile cancer, although this type of cancer is very rare, a slightly lower risk of urinary tract infection (which is quite low in males, anyway), and possibly, a lower risk of later acquiring several different STDs.

There are possible risks, however, which can come from circumcision. The rate of complications related to the procedure is about 2 per 1,000 cases. Most problems are minor, including bleeding and local infection. Rare complications include accidental amputation of the glans and life threatening infection. Occasionally, doctors do not remove enough fore skin and a child has to have further surgery.

While doctors generally use a local anesthetic during circumcision, there is evidence that an infant still experiences pain related to the procedure. The area is red and must be cared for in the following days, in order to heal properly. The restraint with which an infant is held during circumcision is also believed to cause him trauma.

Another issue which may impact a parent’s decision of whether or not to circumcise, is that the removal of the fore skin may lead to a decrease in the male’s sensitivity (obviously, an issue which could impact the child as an adult).

As the parents of two boys, ages 8 and almost 11, my husband I and have had to face the circumcision decision twice. Now, with another boy on the way, we are facing it again. My personal views have changed a bit over the years but I certainly will never judge another parent for making the personal decision to circumcise or not circumcise his or her son(s). There are some very strong opinions out there but as is the case with so many health and parenting issues, I can only hope that others will respect every parent’s decision to choose what is right for his or her child and family.
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