8 Reasons Why You Should Reconsider Circumcision

admin November 6, 2014

Image by Serge Melki

Circumcision is a tough, contentious topic.  There are very passionate proponents of it, and equally passionate opponents of it.  But if you’ve been around for any length of time, you know I’m not one to shy away from controversial topics.  That’s why we’re going to tackle the topic today.

I believe that all parents want the best for their children.  And I know that that is going to look different for every family.  I will not judge you if you choose something I wouldn’t choose.  I won’t call you a bad person or a bad parent — that’s not fair.

All of that said, I am going to stand up and recommend against circumcision.  If you’re pro-circumcision, hear me out.  I’m not calling you a baby mutilator.  I promise not to be rude to you.  But I want to share some information with you today, on why parents choose to avoid circumcision.  I also want to address some of the most common arguments for circumcision, and why I don’t think they’re good ones.

If you’re still pro-circ at the end of this post, I still won’t judge you.  But I want you to promise to read through this and really think about it.  Just for information.

Reason #1: To Look Like Dad/Male Family Members

One common reason that parents give for circumcision is that they want their son to “match” his father or his older brothers.  While I understand the issue of family pride, I don’t think that altering a child’s body through cosmetic surgery is worth it for this reason.  Boys and their fathers do not compare penises — and an adult’s penis and a child’s penis do not look the same anyway.  I know many father-son pairs who do not “match” and none have ever had any issue with it.  This honestly feels like a big deal to some, but it really isn’t.

Reason #2: In Case They’re Ever in a Nursing Home

A lot of people argue about what might happen to a boy if he is ever an adult, in a nursing home, who gets a lot of infections because he isn’t circumcised.  Many have horror stories of older men who had to undergo the operation, or who suffered from the pain of multiple infections.

But here’s what it’s really important to understand: those men didn’t suffer from infections because they weren’t circumcised.  They suffered from infections because they weren’t cared for properly.  Nurses should be taught to retract the foreskin (in adults, not babies!) to clean under it while bathing the men.  This is a very simple way to prevent infection.  Plus, there is no way to know if your son will ever be in that position.  Why would you make a permanent choice in infancy on the off chance that he might be in a nursing home with poorly trained staff in 80 years?

Reason #3: My Doctor Said It Was a Good Idea

Here’s the thing…no major medical organization officially recommends circumcision.  Some recommend considering it, but none outright say that it is a necessary or good procedure.  If your doctor, personally, says it’s a good idea, then that is one person’s opinion.  It really shouldn’t be weighed any more heavily than any other person’s opinion.  There are just as many doctors out there who think that circumcision is a bad idea.  I know that many want to trust their doctors, but major surgery on a newborn isn’t a small matter.  Many doctors are under-educated on circumcision and the benefits of leaving boys intact, especially older doctors.  Please don’t take your doctor’s word for this.

Reason #4: Most People Do It; Don’t Want Teasing

Circumcision rates are falling rapidly.  Overall rates are around 56% right now, and in some areas for some birth years are as low as 30%.  There is no overwhelming majority of boys who are circumcised anymore; it’s pretty evenly split.

As far as teasing, I have to ask…do you make major parenting decisions based on what other peoples’ children might think?  I know I don’t.  Besides, from what I’ve heard, being the person who stares at another boy’s penis and says something about it is worse than being the owner of the “unusual” penis.  (Not that, as I pointed out above, being intact will be “unusual” anymore anyway.)

Reason #5: It’s Healthier/Cleaner

Many parents have some of the other reasons on this list, but for them, it comes down to this point.  They believe that circumcised penises are healthier, cleaner, and easier to care for.

In fact, this is not true.  An intact penis is extremely easy to care for.  In infants, only the outside needs to be wiped.  They should not be retracted at any point in time (doing so could cause pain, bleeding, and scar tissue).  Keeping an intact boy clean is just as easy, if not easier (especially in the early weeks — no wound to care for).

As for healthier, there’s no solid evidence that circumcision — removal of healthy, normal body tissue — is “healthier.”  Some say it may prevent HIV.  Teaching safer sex practices (like not having multiple partners and using condoms) is a much more effective and less permanent way of reducing such infections.  Using the potential for HIV infections (a risk that only occurs — at least as it pertains to circ or no circ — from sexual behavior) to advocate for circ is major overkill.  We don’t remove girls’ breast tissue so that they don’t get breast cancer…or end up with an STD because their breasts were a turn-on to men.  There are safer, less invasive ways to promote health.

Reason #6: My Religion Requires It

This is a really touchy topic.  I can’t tell you what to believe, or what your religion does or doesn’t require.  That isn’t my place.

I would, however, encourage you to look into some of the information out there by people who share your beliefs but who choose not to circumcise.  There are growing movements against circumcision in most religions.  Christians are not required to circumcise because Jesus paid the price for us, and all outward signs are no longer necessary.  (Plus, ancient circumcision wasn’t the complete removal of the foreskin anyway.)  More and more Jewish families are opting for Brit Shalom ceremonies now, naming ceremonies instead of circumcision parties.  There are lot of options for staying true to one’s core beliefs without performing this procedure.

Reason #7: So He Won’t Remember It

A lot of parents are scared of “what if he needs it later.”  They have heard horror stories of older boys, teens, or adults needing to be circumcised and want to get it out of the way in infancy when he won’t remember it.

The thing is, when newborns are circumcised, they aren’t given real pain relief during or after the surgery.  They can’t tel us how it feels, but it absolutely causes them pain.  Plus, they’re wearing diapers, and their raw wound is getting covered in urine and feces.  They also can’t understand what is happening, and circumcision may affect breastfeeding success.

Older boys and men rarely require circumcision.  It does happen, but it truly is very rare. Most of the time, it’s related to either a birth defect, like hypospadias, or to improper care in infancy.  When boys are forcibly retracted (this should never happen), it can causes adhesions, scar tissue, and possibly phimosis (too-tight foreskin).  These complications do not happen in boys who are not forcibly retracted.

Plus, if older boys or men do require circumcision, they are given excellent pain relief during and after the operation.  They are fully aware of what is happening to them.  They are often able to choose if they want to be circumcised or not.  Yes, it’s painful, and yes, they’ll remember it.  But it’s honestly safer and better, and rarely needed.

Reason #8: My Husband Wanted It; I Don’t Have a Penis So I Don’t Choose

Many women feel like since they don’t have a penis, this isn’t a decision they should be making.  They allow their husband to make the decision instead, since he does have one.

I understand this feeling, as a woman.  But the thing is, if you believe it isn’t your decision, then the decision should really belong to your son — the person who owns this particular penis.  Wait until he’s old enough to understand what circumcision is and then allow him to choose if he wants it or not.  Nobody here is arguing that circumcision should never happen.  Men and boys who are old enough to choose it for themselves have every right to get it done.

Your husband gets to choose what he does with his own penis, but your son should get to choose what he does with his.

Some Additional Considerations

I find that a lot of people who argue for circumcision are under the impression that circumcision removes “some extra skin.”  They are unaware of all the functions of a normal, intact penis.  But the truth is, the foreskin is a normal part of the anatomy with functions and benefits.  We can’t discount that when we talk about circumcision.  If it were really just “extra skin” then it wouldn’t be that big a deal to remove it.

In fact, the foreskin has many functions:

  • More than 20,000 nerve endings (highly sensitive)
  • Protects the glans of the penis from chafing or chapping
  • Provides natural lubrication during sex (I know, you don’t want to think about this for your baby boy, but it’s a reality)
  • Self-cleaning (produces fluid to clean the glans naturally, similar to a girl’s body)
  • Protects the meatus (opening of the penis) from infection
  • Provides coverage during erection (additional skin from the foreskin ensures that erection isn’t painful or tight)

There are even more, but these are the main ones.  Basically, the penis is meant to function with a foreskin.  Biologically, it isn’t meant to be removed.  It’s like removing our eyelids, or our earlobes — why would we do such a thing, to healthy tissue?

Plus, it’s important to know that around 100 babies per year die from circumcision.  These are 100 deaths that are absolutely preventable.

When making a decision about circumcision, please consider all the angles.  It’s a very important, and very permanent decision.  There are many, many benefits to remaining intact, and few to none from being cut, for most males.  This is the biological truth.

I hope that if you started this article in favor of circumcision, that you at least have learned something new.  It’s a really important topic.

How do you feel about circumcision?

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  1. I’m really glad you shared this! By the time my third boy was born, I was questioning this but I went ahead and did it bc I didn’t want him to be different from his brothers and I wasn’t sure if it was right as a Christian. Hindsight is always 20/20
    I wish there had been more of a conversation about it then, I think if it hadn’t have been a last minute decision, it would have been a different one


  2. Thank you so much for this. It is my new favorite piece on the subject for sharing. The tone and succinctness are just perfect. Only one suggestion/request: citations or footnotes would be great.


  3. We where torn on this and we didn’t want to until I talked to my mother in law who’s a licensed daycare provider she said those who weren’t had more issues than those who where even w proper cleaning we had our family doctor do it he knows our concerns and he did a good job no issues and no issues w breastfeeding either 🙂


    • Your MIL may believe this, and I’m sure you believe you chose it for the best interest of your son. Saying that I find her anecdote hard to believe, unless the staff at her daycare centre weren’t properly trained in how to care for intact boys. As stated in the article, an intact penis is very easy to care for, basically you just leave it alone! Only clean what is seen, wipe like a finger.
      I find it interesting when people talk about knowing ‘so many’ intact boys that have ‘issues’. In Europe circumcision is very rare, and yet they almost never have any of these ‘issues’ so apparently common in the US.


    • Unfortunately, the fact that a care provider mentions “proper cleaning” means they don’t know how to properly care for an intact boy. There is no such thing as “proper cleaning”.


      • Well — there is “proper cleaning” but it’s basically “wipe the outside and do nothing else.” If they’re recommending more or different, they’re wrong.


        • I was doing some research into how to make sure that other people (and my child himself) didn’t retract his foreskin, causing him to get infections and all the other bad things that can happen. It turns out there’s a pretty simple and well-known way to make sure it doesn’t happen and makes cleaning the penis much more straightforward; it’s called getting a circumcision.


          • So your solution to a simple hygiene and safety issue is…surgery? Okay then….

          • Your lack of empathy is appalling. You care nothing of the man that the boy will become, and how genital cutting will affect his sex-life. Because you are ignorant of the structure of the foreskin, you can’t see anything wrong with cutting it off. As soon as I hit puberty I knew there was something wrong with my penis, it was dry and insensitive, orgasm took a long time, when I had intercourse in a condom I felt nothing, and by the time I was 40 or so I had to have a vasectomy. Later on I stopped having orgasms at all.

            Girls are now protected from genital cutting, boys deserve nothing less. If an adult wants any part of their own body amputated, go ahead, but leave children unmodified.

    • I bet your mother in law doesn’t even know what “proper cleaning” is. To “properly clean” a normal penis, you leave it alone. Wipe like a finger. That’s it. If your mother in law is forcefully retracting the foreskin, she is causing permanent damage to these boys and if she was a caregiver for MY son? I would have her arrested for assault. Ripping apart the tissue under the foreskin causes infections and all sorts of issues.
      I’m sorry you used this inaccurate information to take away your son’s rights to a whole body.
      Not your penis? Not your choice.


  4. Hypospadias is a reason to circumcise an infant; the foreskin is used to repair the condition.


    • This is a really, really rare condition and it’s sometimes possible to repair without circumcising — depending on how severe. Repair is not even always necessary.


      • One in 250-300 live births (1 in 125-150 boys) is “really, really rare” now? I’d hate to see what kind of birth defects you think are common.


        • Hypospadias does not NEED to be “corrected” unless it affects the ability to urinate. If he can pee, let it be.


    • Hypospadias is actually not on the list of things that warrant circumcision.
      When is circumcision medically indicated?
      Frostbite: If the foreskin is frostbitten to the point of necrosis, partial or full amputation may be required.
      Gangrene: Individuals with diabetes or chronic alcoholism have been known to have circulatory
      problems that result in gangrene of the foreskin. Circumcision is indicated for this rare condition.
      Malignancy: Should a foreskin malignancy develop, circumcision is indicated. Malignancies are
      extremely rare and occur in older men (average age 67 years).
      Irreparable trauma: If plastic surgery cannot repair a physical injury, circumcision is warranted.


  5. “No issues” or rather, no issues yet. The final outcome of any genital cutting won’t be known till he is a man and using it – and sometimes not even then, if he thinks his problems are everyone’s problems.

    My mother dug her heels in when they nagged her to cut us back in FDR’s day, and I’m still waiting for any “issues” – but I’m damned glad to have it all so far.


  6. A great article. Re #1 When a boy looks at his father’s – and he will – he’ll take the difference in configuration in his stride, and when he learns why they’re different, he’s much more likely to say “Poor Daddy!” than “Cut mine too!” It may be fear of his son’s pity that prompts so many men to want their sons to match. It’ll be the size and hair that impress the boy.
    #8 A cut man has no idea what he is missing, and is in no position to decide on behalf of anyone else – in fact a worse position than anyone with intact genitalia, such as the boy’s mother.


  7. I always wonder, when people say the uncirumcisized boys have more “issues”, if those are real medical issues, or just what’s normal for an uncut penis, which that care provider just might not be familiar with.

    Also, we don’t give baby girls breast implants and hair transplants to look like their mothers…


  8. Neither of my boys where circumcised (12 and 5) and I have never had a problem with either. Most people that have a “problem” is because they are trying to do TO MUCH when it comes to taking care of it. Most people that work with children that say un-circumcised boys have more problem are because they just don’t know and don’t have the info to deal with it any more than most parents do.


  9. MY religion requires me to have my WHOLE, unmodified body. It’s a damn shame someone else’s religion required them to modify MY penis.

    To me, religion is pretty much the worst reason to do this.


    • “MY religion requires me to have my WHOLE, unmodified body.”
      I like that. I usually cite Sikhism, which values intactness, not even cutting the hair, but with people inventing religions hand over fist, why not? (We’ve just had the self-styled Archibishop of a self-founded church come through urging people to drink bleach to cure every disease, so absolutely anything is possible.)


  10. My father had complications due to an uncircumcised penis, and it was no fun for him getting circumcised as an adult. This is one side of the issue, and the points you bring up are supericial or argued from your standpoint. With all the advances in this new wave world, people are rethinking too much and making an issue out of something that doesn’t have to be. Of course, people have religious reasons that do it and other easily argued reasons. But there are also legitimate reasons it’s been practiced.


    • I’m sorry about your father. But you need to understand that circumcision, as it’s been practiced, is very recent — within the last 100 years. For most of history, we didn’t remove males’ foreskin. Plus, boys are born with a foreskin, a normal, functional part of the body. You’re acting like it’s “normal” to remove it, when it isn’t. We aren’t thinking too much; we’re THINKING. And that’s a good thing.

      Most problems related to not circumcising, by the way, are related to forced retraction in early childhood. We don’t solve the problems we created by intervening, by intervening more. Oh wait…no, that’s quite common. But we shouldn’t.


  11. As boys grow older and become aware of their bodies, many come to deeply resent that they have been circumcised without their consent. As more accurate information becomes widespread, boys will become acutely aware of what has been done to them, the harm that has resulted, and what they are missing. Many hate the large scars and the other damage that results — they can never recover and become natural, intact males.

    Today’s parents have enough information to understand that there are no therapeutic reasons that healthy tissue should be removed from someone’s body. The touted benefits are very dubious and keep shifting from relief of one disease to another as these “benefits” are subsequently disproved. We now know that there are a number of serious harms that come from circumcision. There is also excellent scientific information showing possible connections to many problems males experience in their later life, such as erectile dysfunction, lack of sensitivity, and emotional problems.

    Boys will become aware of this information — it is becoming very widespread; they will know that most males alive today are not circumcised and will view intact penises as normal and natural. And then they will look at their own scarred and damaged penises, and many will hate what was done. Boys will know who made this decision and know that not only did their parents not protect them, but actively consented to their disfigurement.

    Circumcision remains a horribly painful, disfiguring, therapeutically unnecessary, and harmful — not beneficial.


  12. My son is healthy, happy, and whole 🙂 he’s had no issues. There’s no reason to remove parts of babies.


  13. Circumcision without consent and without an actual medical problem being present for it is nothing more than a forced genital cutting habit. In most cases it is simply a tradition being camouflaged as a “medical procedure” or “preventative surgery” for things that can also easily be prevented without it.

    Parents must be warned against unethical doctors who promote this unnecessary surgery for profit.

    Boys deserve the same protection as girls against forced genital cutting. Boys deserve the same consideration as girls for their bodies and rights.


  14. Kate,
    I really like this post and the tone you used writing it. I have looked into this issue a lot, and I approach it with the same attitude. I try to inform and educate, but I would never judge or belittle a parent who makes a different decision than me. Thanks for writing, it’s a good one to share. However, I think it would be even better if you added citations for the numbers used like the % of parents choosing intact, etc… Much of the circumcision debate is debunking myths that are just opinions in the first place (boy needs to look like dad, etc…), but for the ones that are numbers and statistics, it would be helpful for people researching to see where those came from.


  15. Thank you so much for this article. It helps to answer some questions and I felt the tone was so good in that you go away from reading feeling angry or upset. I walk away from reading this feeling more educated and ready to make a decision that I am comfortable with on it if I need to


  16. As a physician who has been trained and performed circumcisions and who has treated patients with complications related to uncircumcised penises, I would like to point out a few problems with this article:

    Firstly, you have no place in giving advice on this subject. You are not a medical professional. It is very clear from your article that you don’t fully understand circumcision, health issues affecting uncircumcised men, or, it would seem, penises in general. You are entitled to your opinion, but this article is just that, an opinion that is completely unrestrained by fact.

    Here are some counter-points to each of your points:

    Reason #1: “Matching” You admit in this section that “matching” isn’t a big deal to you but that it is to some. You gave no valid reason for why someone shouldn’t desire their children and husband to “match” this other than you simply not feeling that way.

    Reason #2: “Infections” Discussed below with #5 and #7.

    Reason #3: “Doctor’s Advice” This may have been your worst point of all of them. Your wrong about no major medical organizations recommending circumcision. While true in the sense that they don’t mandate it as a routine procedure that is essential to childhood well-being. Almost all recommend it be a service that is provided to parents and that it is *a decision best made by parents in consultation with their pediatrician*.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have this as a policy statement: “Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks and that the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it. Specific benefits identified included prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed this statement.”

    The WHO recommends circumcision as part of a multifaceted approach to reducing the spread of HIV. “There is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. Three randomized controlled trials have shown that male circumcision provided by well trained health professionals in properly equipped settings is safe. WHO/UNAIDS recommendations emphasize that male circumcision should be considered an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence.”

    More things that you said that are borderline ridiculous.
    “If your doctor, personally, says it’s a good idea, then that is one person’s opinion. It really shouldn’t be weighed any more heavily than any other person’s opinion.” That is misleading because it isn’t just “one person’s opinion”, it’s the opinion of a medical professional trained and educated on the long-term risks and benefits of the procedure. A doctor’s opinion should be valued above literally anyone else’s when it comes to making a medical decision.

    “There are just as many doctors out there who think that circumcision is a bad idea.” Do you have a source for that?

    “Major surgery on a newborn isn’t a small matter.” Circumcision is not “major” nor is it “surgery”. Claiming such is simply fear-mongering. Circumcision is a 10 minute (or less) procedure that is incredibly simple and straightforward to perform.

    “Many doctors are under-educated on circumcision and the benefits of leaving boys intact, especially older doctors.” I’d have a difficult time finding a doctor that had not witnessed or at the very least been well-educated on circumcision since it is a standard aspect of education in any medical school’s pediatrics or ob/gyn rotation.

    “Please don’t take your doctor’s word for this.” But take yours right?

    Reason #4: “Prevalence” While prevalence has fallen, it is speculated to be due mostly to the increase in the Hispanic population in the US. Rates in white men were as high as 91% in the past decade and 76% in black men.

    Reason #5: “Healthier”. Discussed below with #7.

    Reason #6: “Religion” You should have stopped with the part where you said it wasn’t your place to comment and moved on.

    Reason #8: “Let your son decide” If you ask any teenage boy if he wants someone to cut on his penis, he’s going to say no. His penis could be rotting away from infection and he’d still say no. The procedure in adulthood is nowhere near as simple and uncomplicated as it is in a newborn.

    Reasons #2, 5, 7: The health and infection aspects.

    The men in nursing homes you mentioned got infections due to poor hygiene, true. However, the same poor hygiene in a circumcised male would be much less likely to cause an infection. And, news flash, you’re not going to get a full-body bath from a nurse every day in a nursing home, hospital, or anywhere. Hygiene is important for health but it is unfortunately very difficult to do a good job of in situations where the patient can’t take care of themselves.

    However, it’s not just old men who can’t take of themselves who are affected by the hygienic problems foreskins can cause. One in 3 uncircumcised men will have a UTI at some point in their lifetime. Infants are at higher risk of developing UTIs when uncircumcised, even when cared for correctly and kidney damage will occur in half of all newborns who develop a UTI.

    In a study by the American Medical Association looking a 500 studies of STDs, circumcision reduced the risk of HIV by 60%, cancer-causing-HPV by 35%, and genital warts by 30%. These are absolute risk reductions, not just people who aren’t using condoms.

    “We don’t remove girls’ breast tissue so that they don’t get breast cancer.” Prophylactic mastectomies ARE used in people with genetic predispositions to breast cancer. And your analogy would only be the same if the whole penis were cut off—which it clearly isn’t.

    “The thing is, when newborns are circumcised, they aren’t given real pain relief during or after the surgery.” That’s simply false. Most institutions provide local anesthetic at the beginning of the procedures (just like when being given stitches in the ER). Many babies don’t even cry during the procedure (except when the area is being cleaned beforehand, and only then because the cleaning solution is room temperature).

    “Plus, they’re wearing diapers, and their raw wound is getting covered in urine and feces.” The area is bandaged after the procedure to prevent exactly that. And as for the urine and feces bit, it’s exactly that urine and feces which gets stuck in their foreskin that causes the aforementioned UTIs.

    “These complications do not happen in boys who are not forcibly retracted.” Again, simply false. Many things, not just retraction, can cause phimosis (although retraction during masturbation is possibly the most common cause). Diabetes, congenital conditions, and infections can all cause phimosis. Also, uncircumcised boys are twice as likely to experience balanitis (inflammation of the glans of the penis).

    Last but not least:

    “Plus, it’s important to know that around 100 babies per year die from circumcision. These are 100 deaths that are absolutely preventable.” This is, yet another, FALSE statement. The AAP and CDC estimate only 0 to 2.5 deaths per year (out of 1.3 million circumcisions per year) based on two studies covering 600,000 circumcisions finding only one death. You are more likely to be struck by lightning in a given year than for someone in the US to die from a circumcision.


    • Oh good, a biased medical professional has come to correct me! Yay!

      1. NO, this is not a real reason to perform cosmetic surgery on an unconsenting minor. Period. Can we tattoo babies because we want them to have the same ones as us? No? Then we can’t cut off healthy body tissue either.

      3. Don’t take any one person’s word for it. Why do you persist in saying that people are going to read this blog and no other sources when making a decision? That’s just crazy.

      6. Just no.

      8. Oh, so if any teenage boy would say NO to having part of his penis cut off, then that’s a good reason to do it when he’s unable to consent? REALLY? You know he’ll say no…so you do it when he can’t protest. Wow. His body, his choice.

      Hygiene is important. Get better at it instead of cutting off healthy body tissue on the off chance that a man *might* become incapacitated and require nursing care someday in the far off future.

      We don’t remove healthy breast tissue from people who don’t consent. An adult choosing to have her breasts removed prophylatically is no different than an adult man choosing circumcision, both of which are fine. This can’t be compared to performing either procedure on an infant without consent.

      Babies don’t cry during circ (sometimes; others scream like crazy) because they can go into shock. An extremely sensitive part of their bodies is being forcibly separated and cut off. This, and the painful recovery, can affect breastfeeding success, something that’s proven to have benefits, unlike circumcision.

      Don’t want HIV or genital warts? Don’t sleep around. Seriously, teaching safer sexual practices is much better than removing healthy, functional body tissue.

      Bottom line: intact is the biological norm. We need to have a really, really good reason to remove healthy body tissue before we do it. There is no good reason to do this to an infant. “But he might be in a nursing home someday…” or “but the procedure is more complicated later” or “but he might sleep around a lot and get STDs” or even “but he might get a minor infection that’s easily treated” are NOT acceptable reasons for performing this cosmetic procedure.

      But I’m coming to understand it’s really not about evidence-based practice for you doctors who like to argue with me. It’s about control. You really don’t like it that parents are asking questions and opting out (of vaccines, vit K shot, hospital births, circ). You want them to just do what you tell them. Let me tell you — the more you push and condescend, the less likely parents are to listen to you. Plus, I’ve learned that a lot of the people claiming to be doctors who argue with me, aren’t. They have no more medical training than I do, they just like to push their opinions on others. I stand for parental choice. You stand for making parents fall in line.


      • It’s always funny to me how education somehow makes me biased when dealing with issues like this. There is no bias to be had here. I don’t get paid to do these procedures; I’m on salary, and no hospital would force me to do it if I disagreed with didn’t want to. I do them because parents want them and because they ultimately come with very few risks and some real benefit.

        1. I never said I agreed with that reason. In fact, I find it to be stupid as well. But you gave no argument against it in your article other than you simply not liking it. My point is, if you’re going to bring it up, at least have some sort of argument there.

        3. What you said was that a doctor’s opinion was literally not worth more than anyone else’s. Even if they don’t take only your word for it, you’re saying your opinion is just as good as someone who’s entire life, training, and career is devoted to the health and well-being of children. I don’t mind people gathering opinions from informed sources, but you aren’t qualified to be a source. I doubt that you have ever seen a circ performed and from the way you talk it doesn’t sound like you even understand the process involved. Yet, you are making enormous claims here about risks to the child and what they are experiencing that simply don’t correlate with reality.

        8. My point isn’t that any teenage boy would decline to be circumcised, it’s that he would decline to be circumcised as an adult who would have to experience it and recover from it as an adult which is *nothing* like the recovery process for a newborn. Most newborns are only fussy after the procedure for about 24-48 hours and the wound itself is healed in about 7-10 days. Teenagers and adults undergoing the procedure take about 3 weeks for the wound to heal and are initially unable to walk without severe discomfort– it may take up to four weeks before they can resume normal activity and 6 weeks before resuming sexual activity.

        The lack of hygiene doesn’t just apply to nursing facilities. Men who are uncircumcised have a harder time with hygiene throughout their lives, thus the increase in UTI risk. Simply showering properly isn’t enough, the foreskin traps bacteria close to the urethral meatus all day every day regardless of how good of a job you do at cleaning it.

        And no one is performing the procedure without consent. The parents are the consenting party, as they are with ALL medical issues in childhood. No one is forcing this on unwilling parents. You keep saying that the child should decide but that isn’t how anything works in pediatrics. We allow parents to make preventative decisions for their children all the time because waiting for adulthood for the child to decide isn’t a reasonable approach.

        Shock? You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about. This whole idea of the foreskin being “forcibly separated” is false rhetoric for what is really happening. We aren’t going in, yanking the foreskin up with pliers, and then hacking away. The entire thing is numbed from the beginning with lidocaine and every step is done with gentleness in mind. The step that actually involves cutting the foreskin is preceded by using a ring that applies gradual pressure to the skin, which serves the dual purpose of further numbing the tissue after it and prevents bleeding. By the time the foreskin is carefully cut with a scalpel, the baby literally can’t feel it. These babies aren’t “going into shock”, whatever you think that means; they act just like they do during anything else. If I recorded a baby’s face for 3 hours and did the circ during 10 minutes of that 3 hour video, you’d be hard pressed to tell when or if I did it.

        As for the breastfeeding myth: the idea that breastfeeding was effected by circumcision was popularized in the late 70s and early 80s by a couple of small studies that thought they had found a connection between difficulty breastfeeding and circumcision. However, these studies had tiny cohorts (some as few as 11 children) and massive flaws in design. A study in 2008 published in The Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health (Fergusson et al) looking at 635 infants found “no evidence of an association between neonatal circumcision status and breastfeeding outcomes, or between circumcision status and health and cognitive ability outcomes associated with breastfeeding, and the findings do not support the view that neonatal circumcision disrupts breastfeeding.”

        (P.S. I’m glad we can agree on the importance of breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best milk.)

        As I’ve already said, circumcision reduces rates regardless of sexual practices. You can teach them all day, but people aren’t necessarily going to follow them and even when they do sometimes things go wrong. You keep saying things like “use protection” or “don’t sleep around”. You’re implying that it’s the patient’s fault that they have an illness. I’m not in the business of shaming patient’s for their conditions; as doctors we actually try to help them and prevent illness rather just saying “you should have been more careful.”

        You keep raging about how healthy and functional the foreskin is, but I see that you have absolutely no retort to the fact that being uncircumcised increases your risk of UTI and kidney damage. You simply ignore that this “healthy and functional” flap of skin has real and studied detriments to men’s health. If reducing the risk that my patient will become sick isn’t a good reason for a medical procedure, I want you to give me a better one.

        You also haven’t given a single legitimate detriment to having the procedure done.
        You mentioned breastfeeding disruption (which I’ve already provided a peer-reviewed source that disagrees) and you’ve mentioned this esoteric concept that just because you were born with it means that there is never a reason to remove it, but you have yet to give an example of how not having a foreskin hurts you in the long run.

        And here at the end we get to the crux of the issue. This has nothing to do with whether this helps the baby or not and everything to do with “I’m not going to let a doctor tell me what to do” attitude. We honestly don’t care about control. We just want our patients to be healthy. There would be no reason for me to argue for the validity of circumcisions if I didn’t truly believe that they caused next to no harm, and definitely no long term problems, for my patient. It’s not like we want to do it because it’s some monstrous procedure and we like watching the babies cry. You’re accusing me of not practicing evidence-based medicine, but I’m basing everything I say off what the current literature and evidence shows—circumcisions are fine. But again, this isn’t about circumcisions at all, it’s about letting the world know that you and people like you are more capable than a physician when it comes to giving medical advice.

        And I honestly love when my patients ask questions and express interest in learning about the details of their healthcare and making informed decisions about what they want to do with their health. But to be honest with you, the issues you’re listing, vit k shots for instance, don’t involve patients asking questions and the doctor and patient working together toward their care. I’ve had several moms refuse the vit k shot and none of them, not a single one, wanted to hear why I thought it was necessary. They all had various reasons (it’s unnatural, there are toxins in the shot, etc.) but not a single one of them would let me tell them about the evidence and science showing that vitamin K shots prevent hemolytic disease of the newborn. It’s frustrating because I know that the shot can save lives. I know because I’ve spent almost a decade in school and training—studying, reading, and learning everything I can from treating my patients—to know the things I know about the insane complexity of the human body. I was in Nashville a year and a half ago when the mother of my patient refused her the vit k shot. She cut me off as I tried to explain and told me that she read online that the shot caused leukemia and that she knew better than to trust us because we just wanted to make money off the shot. She left. Two months later, I get a page from the ER informing me my patient was there with the mother in hysterics– her baby wasn’t moving. Labs and imaging showed the baby had late onset hemorrhagic disease of the newborn and without the shot to prevent it, had a devastating cerebral hemorrhage from which she will never recover. That baby will never walk, run, or play because her mother read incendiary posts online based on a single study that has never had its results reproduced linking vitamin k shots to an increased risk of childhood leukemia.

        In the end, however, circumcisions aren’t the vitamin K shot. The impact on a person’s health is nowhere near the same level. A circumcision is a take-it-or-leave-it procedure; it’s not going to hurt the baby a huge amount either way. I might roll my eyes at the reasons for why someone does or doesn’t want it but the decision itself isn’t going to bother me. Even this overarching insidious movement– that anyone with an internet connection knows more about medicine than a physician and that every suggestion that a doctor makes is, at best, pointless or, at worst, putting your child in danger—doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that every time I have a parent refuse a treatment without having the full picture of why I want their child to have it, I have to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of the next time I’m see them that it may be too late, just like it was for that little girl. You can stand for parental choice or whatever you want. I’ll just keep standing for my patients and doing my best to protect them from decisions made in ignorance.


        • Correction to a typo in my previous post: Vitamin K prevents *hemorrhagic* (not hemolytic) disease of the newborn.


        • The crux of the issue is that the four pillars of medical ethics (you did learn about those in medical school, right?) do not allow a physician to perform amputation without treatment for a condition that has not yet arisen. Proxy consent is insufficient for a procedure that is unwarranted, irreversible, and highly invasive.

          I’m sure that you yourself are circumcised, and that you did not learn anything in medical school about the immense value of the foreskin. Would you have even listened? Or would you view such information as being too uncomfortable to consider, in case it told you that you yourself have lost an important part of your genitals? Or is it fear of the loss of income you earn doing circumcisions, if you somehow felt you couldn’t in good conscience continue? In any case, this isn’t about you (or breastfeeding, or your straw man little girl – who has been protected from genital cutting since 1997, not sure what her story has to do with circumcision). You can try to divert the argument to “I’m a good physician because I don’t victim-shame”, but that leaves me wondering both what that has to do with a newborn, and also – who *do* you think is at fault when someone has unsafe sex with a partner of unknown STI status, then contracts HIV? The AIDS Fairy bopped them in the genitals and it was totally not their own choices? Ever heard of condoms? Circumcised men still have to use them.

          That was truly a heartbreaking story about your little girl. Now tell me, what about the normal male anatomy carries such impending danger, such maleficence, that at any moment “it may be too late, just like it was for that little girl”? The greatest danger I see for your intact patients is YOUR cognitive dissonance, YOUR ignorance of normal male anatomy (understandable, but not excusable), YOUR need to push amputative surgery on an unconsenting minor to justify what was done to you and make a tidy profit in the balance.

          Care to share how much you earn per circumcision, how many you do a month, and what percent of your overall income that represents?


        • I really appreciate your comments Jacob. You have brought a lot of balance to this discussion and I appreciate the tone you’ve used. Thank you for bringing evidence based info. And I think you hit the nail on the head with the crux of the argument.


        • We are currently deciding whether to circumcise our unborn son. I read both sides of the argument in this post. Thank you, Jacob, for contributing your medical knowledge and experience.


        • Yeah, cause writting that you’re a professionnal in the field in a comment like this will totally prove anything. You could be faking it. And if you’re really working in the field, I’m very sorry about your lack of professionnalism and your huge bias based on nothing else but a personnal belief and anecdotes. But Karen has already pointed everything out of your arguments that proves you probably didn’t even listen in your medical school.


  17. Jacob is clearly a man who makes a lot of money from performing needless surgery, which is medical fraud. In countries where surgeons are not paid extra per operation, circumcision is very rare, and guess what, the boys, and the men they become, are just as healthy.


  18. I had my first child circumcised. By the time sons #2&3 came I decided it was unnecessary. Initially, my husband (who is circ’d), was not on board with not circumcising. He came around 🙂 We now have 2 circumsised guys in the house and 2 who are not. We’ve never had any problems with “us” vs. “them.” In fact, barely a word has been said about it. Granted my oldest is only 7. When he wants more info, we’ll just explain a bit more about our thinking.


  19. Keith, you really didn’t read Jacob’s post very closely. He said he is not paid to do the procedures. He’s on salary. I don’t have a son and I’m too old to have one now, so it won’t be an issue for me and I’m happy it won’t be. You can say what you like about religion, but circumcision is one of the most important rituals a Jewish boy goes through. If you’re an Orthodox Jew, you can’t just decide not to do it. You’d have to decide not to be Orthodox as well.


  20. Barbaric mutilation ! Victimized ! Sickened ! Outraged ! 20,000 bits of daily data obliterated forever…A biological birthright stolen by means of torture both physical and psychological. Life’s first impressions ? Awakening a conscious mind ! Basis for demeanor.


  21. You say that the way the procedure is done now is not how it was done in ancient times. I’d be interested to know how they differ and your sources on that as well as your other points. I didn’t see any, but I’m mobile so that may have something to do with it. I am on the fence about this and would love to see your sources.


  22. Excellent, basic straightforward presentation of facts that every new and future parent needs to know. Keep up the good work.


  23. European here, I never saw a circumcised penis in my life, nor want to see one. Never heard about anyone from my environment suffering from having a foreskin.
    This whole debate seems so far off 😀 it’s like living in another world really…


  24. Directly from WebMD as it should have been mentioned.

    Cleaning Your Young Son’s Natural (Uncircumcised) Penis – Topic Overview
    It’s important to keep your son’s penis clean whether he has been circumcised or not. Keeping your young son’s penis clean may help prevent infections and other problems. As your son gets older, teach him how to wash and care for his penis.

    Cleaning a natural penis

    Do not force the foreskin back over the tip of the penis. At first, a baby’s foreskin can’t be pulled back (retracted) over the head of the penis. After the first few years of life (though it may take somewhat longer), the foreskin will gradually retract more easily. By the time a boy is 5 years old, his foreskin is usually fully retractable. Up to this time, wash the outside of the penis with warm water. Pushing your son’s foreskin back too early can damage it and cause scar tissue to form.

    When the foreskin is easy to retract, clean under it daily. To clean under the foreskin, gently push it as far as possible toward the body. Carefully wash the entire area with warm water. Then replace the foreskin over the head of the penis.

    A boy as young as 3 can be taught to clean under his foreskin as a normal part of his hygiene. When a boy reaches puberty, he needs to clean under his foreskin every day.

    If your son’s foreskin does not fully retract by the time he reaches puberty, call your doctor for advice.


  25. To the author of this article: Thank you for sharing this information.
    Where are your sources though?


  26. Can anyone whom believes circumcision should be avoided show actual sources and facts to justify their arguments?


  27. Sounds like pretty lame excuses to “Not” get circumcised.


  28. My husband and I disagreed about circumcising our son. Since it was a decision with permanent consequences, I stood firm and did not allow it. I felt that it was something only our son should decide. The reasons of “he should look like me” and “everyone else does it” were not convincing. Did it cause issues in our marriage? Yes, but we already had issues. My husband is a narcissist, although I didn’t realize it at the time, and that means he is very selfish and can be emotionally abusive & controlling. He sees everything as a reflection of himself. His son not being circumcised was a direct assault on his self esteem… that I didn’t think he was good enough, etc. It was ridiculous and it was an eye opener that sent me down a path of finally ending the emotional abuse. I share this because someone reading this may be in a similar situation. You can’t reason with a narcissist.

    In hindsight, I am very glad that I trusted my gut and protected my son. Now that he is 5, he can see that his penis is different from other boys’ at school and he asked me about it. His response is VERY telling! Like someone said above, noticing that he is different does not make him want to be cut too, rather he feels sorry for those that are circ’d. When I told him that the other boys had their foreskin cut off at birth, he FREAKED OUT. First, he said he was going to tell them! After I calmed him down and explained that would be a bad idea, he asked WHY would someone cut it off? I said there were several reasons, one being that they think it is easier to clean. He said, “But I LOVE cleaning my pee-pee!!” Intact penises are a breeze to keep clean, by the way. Before it retracted there was nothing to do and was MUCH easier than cleaning my girls at diaper changes. After he started retracting it himself, I just told him to pull it back when he’s in the tub. That’s it. Lastly, he was truly appalled that people cut off the foreskin. First he was shocked and then he even became angry, and this was with me giving him very neutral and factual information about it. He simply could not imagine why anyone would cut off his favorite part of the penis.


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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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