Decline in Circumcision: Is It Happening in the USA?
When the ultrasound technician placed the wand to my abdomen, she started to say, “This is the femur.” Before she could even finish the sentence, our baby flipped, showing us that he was indeed a boy! There was no mistaking what we were seeing. Intuitively, I had known for a long time before the ultrasound that we were having a boy. I was one of two girls growing up and that was what I had always imagined for myself. I cried tears of joy during and after the ultrasound. I was so pleased our baby was healthy. While my husband and I sat in the waiting room for the second half of our twenty-week appointment, the question “should we circumcise our baby or decline?” bounced around in my head, among other things.
“To circumcise or not to circumcise?” that was the question. When a male is circumcised, the foreskin, the retractable skin which covers the head of the penis, is surgically removed. For most Americans who elect to have this procedure done, it happens within the first two days of birth before the family is released from the hospital. Most Jewish families tend to have the male babies circumcised at between 8 to 10 days of age when the baby is deemed healthy enough for the procedure. For Jewish people, brit milah, meaning Covenant of Circumcision, is seen as a commandment given in Gen. 17:10-14 and Lev. 12:3[i]. Since I am not Jewish, the issue was not as cut and dry… no pun intended. I knew I had to do some research on my own.
What is the most compassionate choice? What is the healthiest choice for my baby? I had chosen to become vegan because I believed it to be the most compassionate and responsible choice. I wanted to do the most compassionate thing for my son, but I was not sure what the science said. Just the idea of letting someone cut my son, made my tummy hurt. There are plenty of times were surgery is the responsible choice. I wanted to stay open minded to full explore the research. I tried to build a case for both sides. After a lot of research, I decided circumcision is not best for our family. Evidently, I am not the only one that is starting to feel that way. Circumcision in on the decline in the United States. According to the CDC, the national rate of newborn circumcision declined 10 percent to 58 percent from 1979 through 2010. There are secular movements advocating for the rights of the male children. There are even movements within Jewish and Muslim communities to stop circumcision. Nowhere in the world is circumcision a recommended routine procedure.
Before I offer some of the pros and cons I found, let’s first talk about what the foreskin contains and what functions it serves.
What Anatomy Does the Foreskin Contain?
- Apocrine Glands
- The Dartos Fascia, a smooth muscle sheath
- Dorsal Nerves
- Estrogen Receptors
- The Frenulum
- Immunoglobulin Antibodies
- Langerhans Cells
- Lymphatic Vessels
- Meissner’s Corpuscles
- The Ridged Band
- Several feet of blood vessels
What is the Foreskin responsible for?
- Maintaining normal pH, color, texture, and moisture balance
- Protection especially during diapering in infancy
- Penis Length and Circumference
- Pleasure for man and his partner
- Gliding Action
The benefits of circumcision are not strong enough to recommend routine circumcision for all males. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics,
“the health benefits of circumcision include lower risks of acquiring HIV, genital herpes, human papilloma virus and syphilis. Circumcision also lowers the risk of penile cancer over a lifetime; reduces the risk of cervical cancer in sexual partners, and lowers the risk of urinary tract infections in the first year of life.”
When I researched this claim further, I found parents could reduce the risk of UTI in the first year of life just by educating themselves on the proper care of an intact (not circumcised) male. I would recommend reading up on the topic yourself, but basically don’t force retraction of the foreskin. According to the 1999 AAP Task Force on Circumcision, a parent can also reduce the risk of UTIs for both male and female babies simply by breastfeeding. Also, the benefits of lowering a son’s risk to HIV and STIs to be something parents could provide their sons with through frank discussions about safe sex when he is old enough to understand such concepts. There are many of parents in previous generations who were willing to leave the birds and the bees talk to their child’s health education class. With the ease of an internet search, a child nowadays can learn and see a lot. The generations of parents raising their children now can less afford the luxury of silence. Children deserve to hear about sexual health from their parents to understand their health and responsibility for protecting themselves and other with safe sex. Growing up, my mother told my sister and I of her open-door policy where we could ask her any questions about sex and sexual health. She affirmed, “I would rather you learn from me how beautiful love making can be between two people who love each other than the rely on the information you learn from other kids on the bus ride home.” I plan on having the same open-door policy. I would rather my son learn it from me than from an internet search or friends. I would recommend having your own open-door policy.
A quick internet search would reveal the CDC supports circumcision, but that headline does not tell the full story behind their data. Articles such as “Do the Benefits of Male Circumcision Outweigh the Risks? A Critique of the Proposed CDC Guidelines” by Brian D. Earp help to illuminate the subject in more detail. The are many benefits to remaining intact and the majority of the males in the world are intact. Shaye Cohen, a Jewish studies professor at Harvard, states, “On the medical side, there’s a growing movement to try and cut back on procedures: Why do we perform surgery on a child who has no symptoms whatsoever?” According to Cohen, the most common argument is about human rights with people saying, “we don’t have the right to mutilate our children—if an adult wants to get circumcised, that’s fine, but the child is not an adult.” For any parents who have regret from circumcising a son, please know you were doing the best you could with the information you had at the time. Through it would have been easier to remain intact, grown men can use a process over years to create a foreskin. If you are interested in reading more, you could order informational packets for yourself or your physician from organizations such as savingsons.org. What will you choose for your son?
Tags: America, circumcision, circumcision in america, controversial, Europe, European vs American, holistic health, infant health, intact, should I circumcise?, why circumcision