Upon finding out she is going to give birth to a baby boy, a mother often considers if circumcision is right for her child. It is presented as a harmless procedure with roots in tradition and religion. In fact, around 80% of American adult males are circumcised. That often leads the modern American woman to think she should or has to circumcise her son.
As stated previously, circumcision has deep roots in religion, namely Judaism. A Jewish mother and father will often have the procedure done on their child in respect to that, often during a ceremony called a bris. It is an important mark of their faith’s covenant with their God.
Beyond religion, is there any good reason to do it? After all, the overall rate globally is only 30%, with many other Western countries checking in at under 20% for their populations. Why is it so prevalant here, but not elsewhere?
The fact is, babies can and do die from the procedure. It is important to note that no matter how common it is, it is still a surgical procedure, one often done without the benefit of anesthetic. It is also the only elective (as in, not medically necessary) procedure one can have performed on a child without the child’s consent-which raises sticky questions about bodily autonomy.
The reasons given in favor of routine male circumcision are varied. There is an argument that it lowers the chance of HIV infection; however, the study was conducted poorly in one area of the world, and has since been debunked by other sources. There is an argument for cleanliness; however, cleaning one’s body properly is simply part of basic hygeine. The proper care of the penis needs to be taught to a child just as much as proper care of one’s teeth or one’s hair.
There is simply no medical reason for routine infant circumcision. Foreskin related illnesses are rare, and the foreskin itself is there for a reason. There is not enough evidence available for a compelling argument in favor of it, which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics and many other countries agree that it should not be a routine procedure.
At the end of the day, it’s up to the mother of the baby to decide what is best for him. An informed decision is better than an uninformed one, which any medical provider will stress-informed consent is important. With information more readily available in our current age, there’s been a sharp decline in circumcisions performed in the United States, down to only 32% of babies born in 2010.
If you do not wish to have your child circumcised, it is very important to bring up with your healthcare provider during your pregnancy. It is also important to stress that to your selected pediatrician, as well as hospital staff. There is a form to sign at the hospital declining consent for the procedure-if you do not wish for it to be done, ask for it specifically and fill it out.
If you do wish to have your child circumcised, simply tell your pediatrician. Most pediatricians are happy to do the procedure, while some will simply refuse unless there is a true and present medical indication that it is necessary. Find the doctor that works best for you and your family, preferably before going to welcome your new bundle of joy into the world.