One of the huge decisions that parents need to make and would sometimes debate on is whether there is a need to have their baby routinely circumcised or to allow their baby to decide for himself when he becomes a little older.
Circumcision also comes with a number of misconceptions and out-of-date information that add more confusion on the part of the parents. No matter what the reasons are in performing circumcision in an infant, the last decision should always come from the parents and not from anyone else.
The health benefits of circumcision
Parents should be able to analyze how circumcision would benefit their baby along with the risks that are involved in the operation. While there are no significant medical benefits that would make infant circumcision a worthwhile decision to make, there are certain health-based advantages that can be gained after performing the operation.
- Circumcision can help prevent balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin); paraphimosis (the painful inability to return the foreskin to its original location); and phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin at an age when it should normally be retractable).
- Circumcision may lower the risk of cancer of the penis.
- Circumcision may decrease the risk of cancer of the cervix in sexual partners.
- It promotes easier hygiene since it makes washing the penis much simpler.
- It decreases the risk of urinary tract infections (UTI).
- It lowers the risk of sexually transmitted infections.
Certain conditions that may rule out performing circumcision include the presence of blood-clotting disorders and the prolonged medical care needed in the hospital nursery for babies that are born prematurely.
The religious implications of circumcision
Religion has always played a major role in the prevalence of male circumcision around the globe. The Jews regard male circumcision as compulsory while the Muslims see it as a common practice.
For Christian parents, circumcising their newborn baby is strictly a medical issue and not a religious one. Being a medical issue, routine infant circumcision should not be done without first understanding all the benefits that it offers. In other words, parents need to be well informed and to evaluate thoroughly as part of their Christian obligation to love their baby and to protect and nurture him.
What is routine circumcision?
Routine circumcision is usually done during the male newborn’s first 10 days of life. Most often, the procedure is also done within the first 48 hours of birth. It can be performed either in the hospital or at home if based on religious and ritual beliefs and practices.
Parents who decide to have the circumcision on their son done at the hospital should be aware of the whole procedure and the possible risks. It can either be the obstetrician, the family doctor or the pediatrician who will perform the procedure before you bring home your baby. Since newborn circumcision can be very complicated, it usually requires the use of general anesthesia.
Routine circumcision is more widely practiced in the United States, Canada and in the Middle East. It is rather uncommon in regions such as South America, Central America, Asia and most of Europe.
Other reasons for performing circumcision
There are situations when circumcision may provide certain penile-based solutions such as when it is too tight to pull back the foreskin over the glans or it is recommended for older boys or men in some parts of Africa in order to reduce the risk brought by sexually transmitted infections.
Apart from religious and health reasons, circumcision is also a matter of family tradition, social beliefs, ethnicity, and personal opinions. Some groups also believe that newborn circumcision is a human rights issue.
There are some who believe that newborn circumcision is a clear violation of the child’s rights. Several groups around the globe including medical societies are campaigning against routine circumcision. They believe that parents who decide to alter their baby’s penis are unethical since they are doing it without their baby’s consent. They argue that parents should be able to understand on the possibility that their child may not desire to be circumcised after all.
Some anti-circumcision activist groups have gone as far as encouraging the re-creation of the “detached” foreskin by way of stretching the penile skin using specially-designed weights.
Popular arguments against circumcision
- Babies remember the painful procedure of circumcision.
- Doctors do it for the sole reason of earning more money.
- It’s nothing more but a genital mutilation which therefore violates human rights.
- It’s a cruel act against babies.
- “Nature makes no mistakes.” Why change it?
- It brings permanent physiologic consequences. Those who were circumcised at birth become more sensitive to pain as they grow older in life.
- The uncovered glans loses some level of sensitivity.
- It decreases the pleasure that one gets from sex.
- It leads to psychological damage.
- It is viewed as an elective surgery wherein the patient is not given a choice on its enactment.
- It creates certain complications such as meatal stenosis and poor cosmetic results.
- There are some men who mourn about losing their foreskin while others try to reconstruct it because they miss it so much.
- If the foreskin remains intact, it can help in providing tissue when there’s a need to perform reconstructive surgery later in life.
- It can also bring complications such as infection, hemorrhage and even death.
How to decide on whether to perform circumcision on your baby or not
Parents should have strong and valid reasons why they see circumcision on their newborn as the best decision they could ever make. Whatever they decide upon, the reasons should be well evaluated and not just be based on what other people say or how the society would see it.
Doctors should do their part in explaining how the procedure will be done and the possible risks it may entail. They can even support their statements with previous cases they have handled in the past and explain how they have dealt with the situation.
If the pros on circumcision outweighs the cons, it is but natural that parents would opt for what they think would be the best for their baby. The best thing about it is that both the baby’s mother and father can simply sit on the issue and discuss it among themselves to come up with a united and well-thought of decision. After all, “two heads are always better than one.”