To Circumcise or Not, That is the Question

Baby boy

Many parents in the US are grappling with the question of whether to circumcise their baby boys. Of late, circumcision has become a hot topic and has evoked controversy and public debate. Some opponents of circumcision even go as far as to call this procedure “genital mutilation”. But, research in Africa has proved that circumcision can reduce a man’s chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.

50% of American Boys are Circumcised
Though of late rates have dropped, more than 50% of American boys are circumcised. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics is not for this procedure. It says the benefits are meager. The most important benefits are lower risk of penile cancer, urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. But, these have to be considered against certain risks.

Risks of Circumcision
Though this procedure is generally considered safe, there are potential risks too. If the operation is botched, it can even lead to permanent damage or amputation of some penis parts. In some surgeries, anesthesia is not used. In fact, about 117 boys die each year due to botched circumcisions. Some opponents say it is risky, invasive and unnecessary. They contend the foreskin is sensitive and contains blood vessels and nerves, and also protects the penis head.

Circumcision can Prevent AIDS
Yet, health experts are considering encouraging circumcision to prevent AIDS spreading in the US. The CDC is expected to release new recommendations on this issue quite soon. Research in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa has revealed that circumcision reduces a male’s risk of getting infected by the HIV virus by between 55% to 76%. Circumcised men are also less likely to infect their women sexual partners with a virus that can cause cervical cancer.

Circumcision does not Help Gay Men
However in the US, AIDS has spread mostly because of homosexuality. And, circumcision does not help in the case of gay sex. Besides, the US already has a high rate of circumcision as already mentioned. Cost is also a factor. Though many private insurers cover circumcision, Medicaid has dropped this procedure to trim budgets. Circumcising a newborn baby costs between $200 to $400, which may tax poor and young parents.

Advice for Parents

  • Plan well ahead and do your research on the pros and cons of circumcision to help you reach an objective decision.
  • Think twice about revealing your decision to friends and family. Other people may have strong views on this subject.
  • If you decide to go ahead with circumcision, inquire beforehand about the doctor’s experience and qualifications, and ask if anesthesia will be used.
  • Get information on the treatment methods for postoperative pain.
  • If your baby is premature or frail, postpone the circumcision.
  • Carefully follow aftercare instructions after the surgery and get immediate medical help if there are complications like excessive bleeding.

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