Circumcision: Is It Right for Your Baby Boy?

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baby boy

The decision to circumcise is up to parents. Credit: Nicole Hill, Getty Images


The debate over circumcision heated up when the Centers for Disease Control announced it may recommend circumcising all baby boys, but experts say the decision still rests with parents.

First of all, just what is circumcision? Dr. Rodolfo Sarmiento, a pediatrician on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill., told ParentDish it's an elective procedure done to boys after birth, usually 24 hours after they are delivered. The prepuce, or overlying skin at the tip of the penis, is removed.

The procedure does cause the child pain, so doctors will administer a pain reliever such as Tylenol. Some physicians, Sarmiento says, prefer to give a newborn sugar or a local, topical anesthetic to help with pain control.

Not all parents choose to have their children circumcised, which is why the CDC's announcement caused such a stir. Officials are considering promoting the procedure in the U.S., according to The New York Times, because it may help reduce the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

The proposal is based on data gathered from studies in African countries showing that men who were circumcised reduced their risk of H.I.V. infection by half, The Times reports. However, some opponents say circumcising newborns in the U.S. is a strategy that wouldn't pay off for decades.

Other reasons to consider circumcision, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, include:

  • A slightly lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs). A circumcised infant boy has about a 1 in 1,000 chance of developing a UTI in the first year of life; an uncircumcised infant boy has about a 1 in 100 chance of developing a UTI in the first year of life.
  • Prevention of foreskin infections
  • Prevention of phimosis, a condition in uncircumcised males that makes foreskin retraction impossible
  • Easier genital hygiene
However, Sarmiento asserts that the decision to circumcise your newborn son is a deeply personal one, and sometimes is even made based on religious preferences. For example, it is customary to circumcise boys who are born into the Jewish faith. Otherwise, he says, parents should first consider whether or not the father is circumcised.

"If so, then proceed, if no then do not do it," he says. "Because when this boy grows up, he will be very different from his father."

Related: CDC to Release Circumcision Recommendations

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.