Q: What are the pros and cons of circumcision?
To circumcise or not to circumcise? Parents of boys always have an important decision to make after their baby is born. Medical risks and benefits, cultural norms, religious traditions, and personal beliefs can all factor into their decision. What is right for one family may not be right for another.
In a 2012 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the organization determined: “New scientific evidence shows the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks of the procedure, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn boys.”
So what are some of these benefits? Circumcision can help:
- Prevent penile infections and penile cancer
- Reduce the risk of developing urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Reduce the risk of female-to-male transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Decrease incidence of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in HIV-prevalent countries
- Decrease the incidence of herpes simplex virus-2.
There are also other medical reasons a parent might consider circumcision. Pathologic phimosis is a condition in which the foreskin of the penis is tightened, which can cause problems with urination. Another condition, refractory balanoposthitis, is characterized by inflammation in the glans or foreskin and can be painful and lead to complications.
Circumcision has some cons as well. These include:
- Pain associated with the procedure
- Post-surgical complications such as bleeding, infection, and hematoma formation
Additionally, babies are unable to provide informed consent for the procedure, and it takes away their choice in the matter.
For some families, circumcision is an important part of their religious tradition. Jewish parents have their male babies circumcised on the eighth day of life. Muslim parents see it as a rite of passage. Other parents may choose to circumcise or not based on based on whether the father or siblings have been circumcised.
Ultimately, parents will need to take the medical pros and cons and their own feelings and beliefs into account to make the right decision for their baby boy.
Lori Watson is a certified nurse midwife at Vancouver Clinic. She holds a master of science with a specialty in nurse midwifery from Frontier Nursing University in Hyden, Kentucky. Lori enjoys spending time with her clients and guiding them to become experts in their own care.