Ramping up to Birth Article

The Circumcision Decision

Another decision you should make before a baby boy's arrival is whether you want him to be circumcised. The procedure is usually performed in the hospital before baby departs for home, so don't put this decision off until after the delivery.

It's a Guy Thing

While the decision to cut or not to cut may not rest on your shoulders alone, chances are this is one area where your mate will look to you for guidance.

You may not be consulted on which types of diapers junior will be wearing, but it's a sure bet that the eventual state of his male appendage will require input from you.

Like Father, Like Son?
For most couples, the decision is fairly simple: Like father, like son. If you are circumcised, it's likely you will want your son to "follow in your footsteps" in every way possible. Similarly, if you practice the Jewish or Islamic faiths, your beliefs dictate the necessity of male circumcision.

One thing is certain: The procedure, which is usually performed on a healthy baby in the first few days of life, is much safer when done in infancy. The surgery - in which the foreskin is cut from the penis - is somewhat riskier if performed later in life.

Changing Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) used to recommend circumcision for health reasons, and it was generally performed without pain medication. Doctors believed that infants did not feel or would not remember the pain.

A new AAP policy statement recognizes that while circumcision does have "some potential medical benefits," the benefits are "not compelling enough" to warrant routine circumcision. The policy also recommends analgesia as a safe means to reduce the considerable pain that infants otherwise would experience.

Check with the person who will perform the circumcision and ask if they use analgesia.

Pros and Cons
There is still some justification for circumcision. Among the benefits:

  • Slightly lower risk of urinary tract infections
  • Lower risk of contracting cancer of the penis
  • Lower risk of being infected by sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
  • Prevention of phimosis, in which the foreskin cannot be retracted

Although circumcision is generally safe, complications occur in a small number of cases. Most are minor, involving mild bleeding or local infection. Some opponents of circumcision argue that foreskin removal reduces future male sexual pleasure, but there is no evidence to support this claim.

Boys left intact must be taught to clean the penis thoroughly each day. The foreskin produces a cheese-like substance called smegma, which must be washed away daily for good hygiene. In this regard, circumcised males have the slight advantage in that their personal hygiene is easier.

For more information regarding your circumcision decision, visit the web site of the American Academy of Pediatrics at www.aap.org. Follow the links to "You and your family," "Advocacy," and "Publications" for more information. And certainly discuss the matter with your physician.


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