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The Circumcision Dilemma

To snip or not to snip, that is the question.

The moment the ultrasound made it obvious that we were having a son, my husband and I both knew that we had some thinking to do. Would we circumcise our baby?

I had always assumed that I would go ahead with the surgery if I had a little boy, adopting the common attitude that we wouldn't want his eyes wandering in the locker room to discover that he was different from all the other boys or to fall victim to taunts.

It appears that the boys' locker room is actually starting to look very different these days; circumcision rates are on a decline in the U.S. According to data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of newborn male circumcision decreased from 58.4% in 2001 to 54.7% in 2010.

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that circumcision has both risks and benefits, and that parents should be given all the information available to make an informed decision. According to their website, "Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision."

So, what are the parents of little boys in Athens choosing for their sons? How common is it to find an au natural boy in this town? After talking to many moms, I believe that it's becoming more and more common for parents to keep their sons intact.

One local mom, Carrie McGarry, didn't come to the decision lightly. "We researched it quite a bit and went back and forth and of course wondered about not looking like his dad," she said. "After many hours of researching the horror that your baby goes through for such an unnecessary procedure, we decided that we were not going to do that to our son, and I have no regrets."

Kelly Piazza chose to go ahead with the procedure for her now 10 month old son, but in hindsight regrets that choice.

"We just didn't do a ton of research on it. Our conversation basically ended after we decided we didn't want him to look different from other boys," she said. "I now know that's not even a valid reason, considering how circumcision rates are decreasing everywhere. It's possible he could be in the minority soon."

Yet, plenty of parents still prefer to go ahead with the procedure and are pleased with their choice. Their reasons vary from religious beliefs, an aesthetic preference, and to avoid health issues in the future.

For Kathy Placek, another Athens mom, the choice to circumcise was very personal. "My husband was not circumcised at birth, however, he did end up having to have the procedure done when he was 10, and it kind of traumatized him," she said. "We didn't want our son to have to go through that as well if he was similar to his father in that way."

The complicated issue is one that all parents must face for their sons. With the wealth of information and education that has been made readily available, it seems that many parents are making informed choices instead of immediately opting to give their boys the snip.

In the end, we elected to keep our sons intact. After seeing the statistics and talking with other moms, my hope is that the locker room won't be such a strange place for my boys to encounter after all.

What is your stance on the practice of routine newborn male circumcision? Please leave your experiences and opinions in the comments.

Thomas Tobin September 22, 2011 at 05:44 PM
Fera, Which is fine, except there's no truth to it. The 3 African studies on which the WHO based its recommendation are junk science. The guys who conducted the 3 studies were very pro-circumcision, and stopped the studies and declared victory before they were even finished. There were 6 African studies, and now a 7th, which showed that men with foreskins were less likely to contract HIV than their circumcised counterparts. These studies have been conveniently ignored. There is no medical association of any country, anywhere in the world (including Israel and the US), which recommends routine infant circumcision on medical grounds. Enough name calling. Just because I am against unnecessary surgery on a healthy infant, makes me anti-circumcision, not a fanatic.
Thomas Tobin September 22, 2011 at 05:51 PM
Washing with strong soap frequently causes balanitis, which is inflammation. Premature retraction often tears the membrane which attaches the head to the foreskin, and keeps foreign matter out when the child is young. This sometimes leads to infections, which then lead to a tight foreskin, which the medical community uses as an excuse to circumcise. Other countries which don't circumcise know better, and their rates of adult circumcision are tiny. "Finland's Ministry of Social Affairs and Health reported in 2004 that, "some 500-1000 circumcisions are performed as a therapeutic measure annually in Finnish hospitals", amounting to 710 nationwide cases in 2002". Out of a population of 5 million+, that is a very small percentage. We are not born needing surgery.
Ron Low September 22, 2011 at 08:17 PM
No medical association endorses routine infant circumcision. HIS body, HIS decision.
Shelly September 22, 2011 at 11:26 PM
Funny how comments promoting circumcisions are deleted... WHY? Is there not 2 sides to every story? Do people not need to know some experiences from adults that have been in situations with both circumcized and uncirc'd males? Really? I am appalled that this article is so biased and caters only to people who agree and do not express concerns or give details of bad (but very truthful) experiences.
Leigh Hewett September 22, 2011 at 11:55 PM
Shelly, The comment in question was removed by Athens Patch because it was too sexually explicit not because of your stance on circumcision. I can appreciate that you felt it was a truthful experience but some details were too graphic for this forum. As for your feeling about the article being biased, it is an opinion piece and I was sharing MY experience. I clearly ask for opinions at the end of the article and the entire point was to start a discussion. I welcome all opinions.
Leigh Hewett September 22, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Milton-what a comical mistake to have made about that quote. Thanks for commenting!
Hugh7 September 23, 2011 at 12:02 AM
Are there two sides to the circumcision-of-girls story, Shelly? (Just cutting the clitoral hood, not the horrific kind of thing they do in Africa.) That used to be legal and performed under surgical conditions in the USA. Would some stories from men about unpleasant (but very truthful) encounters with uncircumcised women convince you that parents have a right to cut their daughters? (And as Russell Crowe said, if you can't spell it, don't do it.)
Hugh7 September 23, 2011 at 12:12 AM
"It protects against UTI's, STD's, and cancer." This sounds impressive, but in real world terms, at best it may slightly reduce the risk of rare conditions of late onset that are better prevented or treated by other means. By the circumcision advocates' own figures: hundreds of circumcisions would be wasted to protect one boy against a urinary tract infection (which are commoner in girls, and of course always treated without surgery); more than 1500 to prevent one penile cancer in an old man who'd neglected his hygiene; and there is no direct evidence for the cervical cancer claim; and plenty of evidence that circumcision does not protect against STDs.
Linda Labbo September 23, 2011 at 12:28 AM
The real issue here is about parents being able to make an informed choice. There seem to be pros and cons to the situation (as you mention, Leigh, in the article) but how people respond is definitely also a matter of choice and expression! Right?
Hugh7 September 23, 2011 at 12:36 AM
But in this case, Linda, the parents' choice to circumcise (unlike most parental choices), takes away a man's choice not to be circumcised. And who is most directly and intimately affected by this choice?
Thomas Tobin September 23, 2011 at 12:39 AM
An interesting commentary... http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/thebrownandwhiteblog/index.ssf/2011/09/lecture_on_genital_alteration.html
Laruren September 23, 2011 at 12:47 AM
Honestly, some of the comments left on here by "anti-circumcision" people do seem fanatical. It is to be decided by the parents and it is a VERY personal choice. I've already made my decision and I don't regret choosing circumcision. We had zero complications and I've heard no complaints from my boys. I can't believe how accusatory some of these comments have gotten.
Hugh7 September 23, 2011 at 02:51 AM
"it is a VERY personal choice" That is exactly what we say, Laruren - so personal that there is only one person who should be making it. You may never hear complaints from your boys, but when they are men they may still have them and never tell you. Some circumcision complications - and inevitable losses - are never sheeted home to their real cause - the men imagine that everybody has to put up with what they do, since lots of men don't talk about the details of their sex lives.
Thomas Tobin September 23, 2011 at 10:21 AM
Exactly what is so fanatical, so radical, about not doing anything? Nothing. Just letting nature take its course? The fanatical thing, is removing half the genital skin from a healthy baby, because somebody else thought it was a good idea. I'm not judging anybody. I had one circumcised son, and one uncircumcised son. I know how hard it is to buck tradition, or to buck faulty medical advice. But that's exactly what it is, faulty medical advice. The Europeans live longer and healthier, and they don't do it. What do they have to show for it? Less disease.
Thomas Tobin September 23, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Hi Shelly, What you described in the now deleted entry is not typical, and not normal. There is a bacteria called gardnerella which can cause bacterial vaginosis (which stinks). It can also infect a man. Your guy needs to be checked out, for both yeast, and gardnerella. Yeast can affect anyone, at any time...circumcised or uncircumcised, male or female. If one of you has it, you will both be passing it back and forth, until both partners treat it. Anything over the counter which will work for a woman, should work on a man. Treatment for gardnerella, well, a doctor will know. The normal scent for both sexes is meant to be attractive, not repulsive. He has more control, because he has more nerves, sending more signals to the control center. Hope this helps.
Mark Lyndon September 23, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Wow. Three doctors told you that a three-year-old had phimosis!?! That is insane. I was about ten before I was able to retract, and I have no idea if my nine-year-old son can or not. I'd already heard a few bad stories about US doctors not understanding intact penises, but that takes my breath away.
Thomas Tobin September 23, 2011 at 07:12 PM
Hi Mark, I appreciate that it's crazy. There is a lot of crazy going on. If I open an Anatomy and Physiology textbook, there is no foreskin on the picture. If the medical textbooks pretend it doesn't exist, and the medical community wants to go along with it, how can the AMA and AAP expect doctors to educate the public? Most doctors don't have a foreskin, so they have no point of reference, except someone else, if they are even that curious. This is how we end up with so much misinformation. Doctors fought a propaganda war, to make circumcision a health procedure, decades ago. Over time, it has been a cure for everything from paralysis, self-pollution, epilepsy, cancer of the cervix, cancer of the penis, and how HIV...none of it true. Now, if they backtrack, they will get lawsuits from people who felt they were robbed of a significant percentage of their genitalia. They already are. http://www.boystoo.com/press/stowellpress.htm http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=158326
Steve T. September 24, 2011 at 04:20 AM
Europeans typically live longer than Americans because of better diet and lifestyle choices, not any differences in circumcision. I had my boy cut because, frankly, the end product looks much better than as God originally designed it. Hey, Jesus Christ was cut too, so my son and I are in good company. More aerodynamic look is yet another reason. Win, win, win as far as I'm concerned.
Thomas Tobin September 24, 2011 at 12:05 PM
Europeans don't live less long, because they keep their foreskins. This tells you circumcision is not a benefit to a longer life. They get less STDs than Americans, which tells you there is no STD benefit. Are there any other normal body parts you object to so strenuously, that you would have your kid surgically altered, to get rid of them? Is there any other body part you feel looks better as a scar, than the real part? Most men want more genitalia, not less, but I guess there is an exception to everything. Are there any other instances where you know better than 4.7 million years of human evolution, and God, how something should look? Hey, Moses was cut, and left his son uncut. The only one that lost, was your son. 20,000 exquisitvely sensitive nerves, the frenulum (the most sensitive part), the inner foreskin (the second most sensitive part), and the ridged bands. A mucous membrane, like the inside of your mouth, was turned into skin more like your arm. Would a woman's genitalia be better that way?Something which makes entry gentle is gone, What would a man do with all that "extra" skin, that comes standard? You've got a prejudice against the human body, as nature made it.
Hugh7 September 25, 2011 at 11:13 PM
@Steven Tombalakian: Nobody imagines Europeans live longer because they don't circumcise, but it obviously didn't hurt (in any sense). "Frankly"= "In my opinion" which differs, from Michaelango's, Leonardo da Vinci's etc. (who even portrayed Jewish characters like David and the boy Jesus as intact) opinions, but more to the point, may differ from HIS opinion. Christians believe that Jesus was circumcised under the old law, which he did away with by his crucifixion. Gal 5:2 "If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing." Aerodynamic look? Is it going to fly somewhere by itself? "as far as I'm concerned" What about HIS concerns?
Hugh7 September 25, 2011 at 11:41 PM
"More aerodynamic look is yet another reason" has gone up at http://www.circumstitions.com/Stitions&refs.html along with 450 other bad reasons to cut parts off boy babies' genitals. (The reasons to cut parts off girl babies' genitals at http://www.circumstitions.com/FGC-stitions.html are just as various and irrational.)
Thomas Tobin September 26, 2011 at 12:40 AM
to Steven Tombalakian: you might want to take a look at how fortunate both you and your son have been. from today's Los Angeles Times, the stories of boys losing their heads: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-circumcision-20110926,0,4367816.story
Sue Anderson September 26, 2011 at 08:13 PM
To each his own on this, I say. We had ours circumcised because that was the common practice back then. Not sure what I would do today, although my husband still likes the idea, having been circumcised himself.
Thomas Tobin September 26, 2011 at 08:36 PM
For women who have a circumcised husband, who is reluctant to consider having a son who is intact, here is an interesting article: http://www.udonet.com/circumcision/vincent/vulnerability_of_men.html
Hugh7 September 27, 2011 at 02:38 AM
"To each his own" That is exactly why babies' genitals should be left alone. "my husband still likes the idea, having been circumcised himself" You know something he doesn't, what it is like to have all your bits. How would you feel to have part removed (any part, no matter how little) now? Would it make any difference if it had been done before you could object, because it had been done to your mother?
Mary Jessica Hammes September 30, 2011 at 10:58 PM
If it ain't broke...
Cassie Brown October 05, 2011 at 07:04 PM
Laururen, I agree with you. Since a baby cannot make the decision, then it is up to the parents. My boys have never complanined about it. Neither has my husband. I would choose it again.
Thomas Tobin October 05, 2011 at 07:25 PM
Would you choose it for your daughter? Wouldn't the fact that he can't choose it for himself, cause you to act cautiously, and leave his choice options open? If he has a foreskin, he can always be circumcised, if that's what he wants. If he is circumcised, and wants to have a foreskin, he's out of luck. It's pretty easy to choose for someone else. How would you feel if someone else chose to remove a considerable amount of skin from your genitals?
Ryan Griffin November 13, 2011 at 06:11 AM
I tuned in to Athens Patch after this article was written. Thank you so much for writing it! I left my son intact. My ex's entire family tried to convince me that my son's penis was deformed and necessitated circumcision. When he was 2 weeks, we took him to the doctor, and I acknowledged that his penis was in fact deformed, and I was ready to have him circumcised. How many uncircumcised baby boy penises had I ever seen? Apparently, none. The doctor looked me straight in the eye and told me that my son's penis looked exactly the way it was supposed to look. My son is 8 and has never had any problems with his body. I have taught him to pull his skin back each time he bathes so that clean water washes away any body fluid or bacteria. I have also heard of boys having problems if they wash with soap in that area, so I was careful to teach to only rinse with clean water. Kudos to you Leigh for writing this article to raise awareness, and kudos to all parents who break tradition and do not unnecessarily involve their baby boys with knives and blood to their private parts.
Thomas Tobin November 13, 2011 at 11:23 AM
You brightened up my day. That doctor did exactly what he or she was supposed to do...and that is rare. Thanks, Ryan.

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