To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise?

August 10, 2017

| Intuitive Birth

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is a cosmetic procedure that permanently alters a boy’s body, removing an essential and integral part of the penis. Approximately 1 in 3 men are circumcised globally.

 

Why parents choose to circumcise their babies:

(These are not facts, just personal opinions.)

  • It’s cleaner/easier to clean

  • It prevents disease 

  • I want my son to look like me

  • I’m circumcised and I’m fine

  • It looks better

  • I don’t want my son to be teased in the locker room

  • Everyone does it

  • It’s a tradition in our religion 

  • It’s just a little snip/it’s a useless flap of skin

  • Babies don’t feel pain/they won’t remember it

  • Doctors do it/the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) supports it

 

Why parents choose to keep their babies intact:

(These are not facts, just personal opinions.)

  • It's natural, he was born this way

  • It's mutilation

  • The foreskin is actually necessary

  • Most of the world doesn't circumcise

  • It's a violation of his rights

  • It's a permanent surgery

  • He will be in pain

  • It could get infected

  • He's perfect the way he is

  • It doesn't prevent any disease

  • It looks better

  • The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) says it's not necessary

 

What is the foreskin?

The foreskin is not actually a separate body part; it’s simply part of the penis.

In an adult male, the foreskin is 12-15 square inches (about the size of an index card).

It’s made up of 3 parts

  • Frenulum - the webbed tissue

  • Frenar band - ridged band containing most of the nerves

  • Dartos muscle - allows the foreskin to respond to cold or fear by surrounding the penis and pulling it in towards the body

 

Why do men have a foreskin?

  • It protects the penis.

  • It’s lined with mucosa (similar to inside of a vagina) containing immune cells.

  • It contains 10,000-20,000 fine touch nerve endings, making it the most erogenous part of a human male.

  • It has a stretch receptor nerve, creating lubrication during sex.

  • It allows the penis shaft skin to stretch, preventing tension or pain during erections.

  • It allows the penis shaft skin to move easily, reducing friction in sex.

 

 

What is unique about circumcision surgery?

  • It removes a healthy, useful body part.

  • It is performed on minors who cannot give consent.

  • It is illegal to perform on girls in this country but promoted for boys.

  • It results in lifelong function loss.

  • The tissue is used commercially - sold for skin treatments, cosmetics, and research

 

Disease Prevention

Circumcision has been practiced for thousands of years by those have claimed it to have cured masturbation, epilepsy, dementia, clumsiness, bed-wetting, asthma, constipation, insomnia, and more. Interestingly, European countries with the lowest rates of sexually transmitted diseases have the highest rates of intact (uncircumcised) men (according to researcher Ryan McAllister, Ph.D).

 

"Behavioral factors are far

more important risk factors

than circumcision status."

- Circumcision Resource Center

 

So, does circumcision actually prevent anything?

The definition of “prevention” is: the action of stopping something from happening. Cutting the foreskin does not prevent disease or infection. Being circumcised may reduce the risk of certain infections and diseases but does not create immunity. Amputating a female's labia could potentially reduce her risk of infection and disease but that is not an accepted practice in most of the world. Is it worth amputating a functioning body part to slightly reduce risk of an infection or disease that could simply be avoided by practicing safe sex and having good hygiene?

 

Urinary Tract Infections
UTIs affect about 3% of children in the United States each year, most of which are females. There have been some small studies comparing the rate of UTIs in baby boys who were circumcised and those who were not. Results showed a slight increase of UTIs in uncircumcised baby boys. However, this infection is rare in males to begin with and can be avoided with good hygiene. UTIs can be easily treated with antibiotics if needed.

 

HIV and AIDS

The United States has the highest rate of HIV and AIDS in any industrialized country and the highest circumcision rate of any industrialized country (according to researcher Ryan McAllister, Ph.D) & (circumcision.org). The studies about circumcision and HIV/AIDS instill a view that being circumcised prevents this infection. However, these studies are deeply flawed for many reasons. For example many of the variables that would influence contraction of the infection were not considered. (Learn more)

 

Penile Cancer

Penile cancer is rare in the United States. A man may be more likely to die from circumcision than from penile cancer. Foreskin does not cause penile cancer. Penile cancer is caused by HPV (from sex), smoking, poor penile hygiene, and diabetes. The American Cancer Society does not recommend circumcision. Instead they recommend not smoking, good hygiene, and safe sex.

 

HPV and Cervical Cancer

The 2002 study about circumcision and HPV is not reliable because the men and women had different strains of HPV (according to researcher Ryan McAllister, Ph.D). There may be a slightly lower risk of a man transferring HPV to his female partner if he is circumcised, but this can be avoided regardless of being cut or not by simply getting tested, practicing safe sex, and having good hygiene.

 

Risks of staying intact

Occasionally, no more than 1%, circumcision may be needed later in life. The reason for this is usually Phimosis. Phimosis is when the foreskin cannot retract because the glans are still adhered to the inner mucosal surface. Gradual and natural separation of the glans from prepuce takes place spontaneously over many years, often not being complete until puberty. The rate of true pathological phimosis (diagnosed correctly) is less than 1%.This condition is often misdiagnosed for children by lack of education. Many people, including some physicians, believe the foreskin should be retractable and therefore diagnose phimosis for children when, in fact, the foreskin is normally not retractable in a healthy child. 

 

Risks of Circumcising

When you do surgery, it causes risks.

According to 16 studies, the severe adverse affect of circumcision is a median frequency of 1.5%.

Here are some of the risks associated with circumcision:

  • Scarring 100% of the time - hence the ring around the penis

  • Severe blood loss

  • Infection

  • Penile adhesions - tissue from shaft attaches to head - extremely common - can cause pain and cosmetic complications

  • Puncture - cutting all the way through the penis

  • “Buried” penis

  • Penile amputation

  • Difficulty breastfeeding

  • Meatitis - inflammation at the opening at the end of the penis - can cause pain, pressure, and urination problems

  • Cosmetic complications

  • Hypersensitivity or numbness

 

Problems with informed consent & physician education...

  • Physicians often do not inform parents of all possible complications or severely trivialize the possibility of complications

  • Physicians often do not know or inform parents of the functions of an intact penis (functions of the foreskin)

  • Physicians are not educated about the function of foreskin - only taught how to remove it

  • Physicians are mis-taught care for an intact penis - taught to forcibly retract and wash, which causes harm

 

What is the procedure for circumcision?

  1. The child is strapped down so they cannot move.

  2. The child is often anesthetized to numb the area, but not always. (Make sure to ask the person who is performing the surgery.)

  3. A metal instrument is used to forcibly retract the foreskin from the penis (akin to pulling a nail from the nail bed).

  4. The tissue is clamped or cut off.

 

How do you care for a circumcised penis?

(Learn more at webmd.com)

  • Gently wash the penis with warm water after each diaper change.

  • Don't use soap. Pat dry. 

  • Put petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, on the circumcised area. Petroleum jelly keeps the scab from sticking to the diaper.

  • Make sure diapers are fastened loosely so there is less pressure on the penis while it heals.

  • Don't try to remove the film that forms on the penis. It will go away on its own.

 

How do you care for an intact penis?

  • In infancy, you simply do nothing.

  • To clean during a diaper change, wipe from the base toward the tip.

  • The foreskin retracts naturally over time (between toddlerhood to puberty) - it is harmful to forcefully retract it

  • Allow diaper-free time in toddlerhood - touching himself helps naturally separate the tissue (it’s not sexual, he’s simply exploring his body)

  • Do not use soap - it disrupts the balance of good bacteria (You wouldn’t put soap in your eyelid, would you?)

  • When his foreskin has naturally retracted, he can pull it back and clean it with water whenever he takes a bath or shower

 

All human beings should be able to make their own decisions about whether their genitals are to be injured. All the more so if such a procedure is irreversible and not medically necessary. However, as parents, we are faced with the responsibility of making decisions for our children until they are able to give their own consent. So let's make these choices with the most information possible.

 

Resources

 

  

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