The Pros and Cons of Circumcision

If you're the parent of a newborn boy, you'll most likely be asked whether or not you want to have your little one circumcised.  It's a decision that parents have been making for a very long time.  Hieroglyphs from before 2300 BCE depicting circumcision show that the procedure was practiced in ancient Egypt before 2300 BCE.

Circumcision is a medical procedure where the foreskin of a male newborn's penis is removed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently takes a neutral position on the necessity of the procedure, but in 1999, they issued a landmark statement recommending against routine circumcision of boys. In 2011, the AAP soften that stance and advised parents to consult with their pediatrician and to consider their religious and cultural traditions when making a decision on the surgery.

So, you can see that even experts have gone back and forth over whether the surgery is actually medically necessary.

Discussing the AAP's stand, Marjorie Milici, MD, a pediatrician at Baylor Pediatric Center in Dallas says  "They are now neutral on the issue. They swing the pendulum back and forth every few years."

Dr. Milici also says she has seen a significant drop in routine circumcisions since she began practicing medicine 18 years ago. "When I first started practicing, almost everyone was getting it done," she says. "Now it's 50-50."

What are the benefits of circumcision? Research has shown that there are health advantages. Boys with a circumcision penis are less likely to get urinary-tract infections and penile cancer, and they are also at decreased risk for acquiring the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis and HIV. Studies have suggested that these conditions may appear more frequently in uncircumcised men because of the additional effort that is required to keep the foreskin clean.

On the other hand, Milici says the risk of these diseases is very small in uncircumcised men who take good care of their foreskin so it should not be a major consideration when deciding whether to circumcise. "We're reinforcing that to the bigger boys and parents bathing littler boys," Milici says.

There are some risks associated with the surgery such as bleeding and infection. Pain is also a consideration. Local anesthetics are typically given to infants before the circumcision, but the days during the healing process can cause soreness.

Tradition can play an important role in choosing circumcision. People who practice Judaism choose circumcision for religious reasons. Still others want their sons to have the procedure so they can look like other men in their family. "It can be sort of a rite of passage," Milici says.

Circumcision surgery on infants can ignite heated debates. People who oppose circumcision believe that the procedure is a mutilation of the body and offers no health benefits.  People who support the procedure believe it is safe and offers a number of health benefits and better hygiene.

Parents-to-be should decide whether they do or do not want their infant boy circumcised before the baby arrives. Consultations with a pediatrician are recommended well before the baby is born so that parents have plenty of time to do their own research and discover what decision is best for them and their child.

Source: Jennifer Acosta Scott,

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