Parents of newborn boys are faced with answering a question that parents of newborn girls are not: Should we circumcise our baby?
Health, cultural, religious, and social considerations can all shape a parent’s decision. The procedure is generally considered a routine operation in the United States, with low risk of complications, but is the procedure worth it?
Shannon Secor, MSN, RNC, clinical director of OB/Nursery services at ProMedica Toledo Hospital, shares five surprising facts about newborn male circumcision.
1. Circumcision rates vary depending on the region of the country.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there has been a 10% decrease in the number of U.S. circumcisions from 1979-2010. However, different areas of the country are showing different trends. The Northeast has seen no significant change over recent decades while the Western region has seen the biggest variable in trends – ranging from 64% in 1979 to only 40% in 2010.
2. Circumcision may reduce a man’s risk of acquiring HIV.
The CDC estimates that the risk for acquiring HIV is reduced 50-60% if having sexual intercourse with infected female partners. Additionally, circumcised males in clinical trials have been shown to be 30-45% less likely to acquire genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV) that is associated with specific cancers.
The transmission of HIV has not been proven to be decreased in women that have intercourse with circumcised males. However, other sexually transmitted diseases such as bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis and HPV infections were reduced in female partners of circumcised males.
In other studies, circumcision has been shown to lower the risk of other various sexually transmitted infections, penile cancer, cervical cancer in female partners, and urinary tract infections in infants.
3. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision.
In addition to a decreased risk of HIV transmission, some studies have shown that circumcision may lower the risk of other various sexually transmitted infections, penile cancer, cervical cancer in female partners, and urinary tract infections in infants. However, many of these health benefits can also be acquired through safe sex practices. Therefore, it is not fully necessary to circumcise solely based on these factors.
Circumcision complications are rare but the practice does come with the following risks: Bleeding, swelling, infection, and the potential for revision in the future if too much or not enough foreskin was removed during the procedure.
4. Uncircumcised males may face hygiene issues if not taught proper care.
Hygiene may be affected if uncircumcised males are not properly taught appropriate cleaning techniques of the foreskin. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that proper hygiene, such as retraction of the foreskin while cleaning, can lower chances of infection, cancer of the penis and sexually transmitted infections.
5. Circumcision is not only performed for cosmetic reasons.
According to Secor, this is one of the biggest misconceptions. Circumcisions are also done for health, religious and cultural reasons. They have been performed for thousands of years all over the world in varying cultures and religions. While circumcision is common practice in the United States, it still remains personal preference, which requires education, counseling and consideration by the parents prior to or at the time of birth. It is a personal choice by both parents and is based on personal, cultural and/or religious beliefs as well as health considerations.
Would you consider or have you decided to have your son circumcised? Why or why not?