Cut Vs. Uncut: The Pro's & Con's of Infant Circumcision
An Unbiased Review...
First things first. I am female, so I can never truly know how a man feels about being circumcised, whether it happens when he was an infant or when he was older. I can only experience things second hand, as a mother and a devoted wife-type person to my significant other. I look at this as a slight benefit because I don't have the bias a man would about whether or not to chose such a procedure. Though I also have chosen to circumcise both my boys as infants, so in a way I am pro-circumcision, while at the same time, I am not "anti-natural" or "anti-foreskin". It just felt right and logical for my family. I feel it is a decision that each parent has to make and that neither decision is wrong or right, better or worse. Each option has it's pro's and con's, disadvantages and benefits.
With all that being said, I would like to attempt to create an unbiased hub about the pro's and con's of infant circumcision and 'intactness'. I'm not sure if I can do it the way I envision, so I hope that any of you awesome hub hoppers find that if at some point I lean more to one side or the other, that you'll leave a comment so that I can try to provide the most informative and unbiased hub on the subject. This is important to me, as I have come across way to many sites, people, medical professionals and authors who only provide information biased on their own point of view and not on the facts. This leads to a lot of confusion, misinformation and guilt, which I don't think any parent should have to experience for no reason. With any heavy decisions such as these, it's important that you have the facts and not just opinions and biased reviews from either side of the fence.
So without further ado..... I hope you enjoy Cut Vs. Uncut: Pro's & Con's of Infant Circumcision
Circumcision: Confusion & Controversy
As far as we can find, the earliest circumcisions were preformed by ancient egyptians who viewed the circumcised penis to be much more hygienic. It was preformed on adult men for the cleanliness view as well as a rite of passage into manhood. That started in about the 5th century and ever since then it has been a huge controversy among humans of all cultures, creeds and consciences.
The issue has created a lot of confusion for parents and adult males everywhere, especially since most of the information provided on the topic are either heavily pro-circumcision or anti-circumcision. This makes it hard to form your own opinion on the subject, or to make a choice that is best for your boy. And even with many now providing unbiased information, it is doubtful that the subject will ever officially reach a one-side over the other solution. Parents and people will always vary in opinion, and the medical field changes it's position every 5 years or so. Pediatricians and medical groups go from being all about circumcisions to completely against them. It hasn't been until recently that doctors and most organizations have reached a middle ground in admitting that circumcision is no better or worse than intact foreskin on the penis. This has rounded out the procedure from being done 90% of the time to about 55% of the time, and I personally feel that it is great to see at least one medical topic discussed so unbiasedly from medical professionals. It isn't often that this happens and it isn't likely to stay that way for long.
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from around the glans or head of the penis. It is most often preformed on infants 10 days old or younger, though older boys and men also have it done for various reasons.
Disease Prevention - Circumcision has been proven to help prevent the transmission of HIV and STD's in teenage and adult males. It has also been shown to help prevent meningitis, foreskin infections, epididymitis, phimosis, urinary tract infections (UtI's) and kidney failure
Cancer - Circumcised males have an advantage in that they are less likely to develop penile cancer or prostate cancer. They are also less likely to give female parents HPV which can lead to cancer of the cervix.
Hygiene - Most agree that a circumcised penis is easier to keep clean with very little effort. This is important, as an unclean foreskin can become a quick habitat for microscopic invaders seeking to cause infection.
Faster Healing - When preformed in early infancy, a circumcision will heal within a week (so long as no complications arise) and most infants are no longer bothered by the pain in less time than that. With an infants older than 4 weeks, older children or adults, it can take up to six weeks or more to fully heal and at least 2 to 3 weeks before the pain subsides.
Safety - Circumcisions are a very routine procedure and one of the most common procedures preformed today. It is for this reason that circumcisions preformed by skilled pediatricians are usually uncomplicated and have extremely high success and safety rates.
Smegma Build Up - Because the foreskin is usually not able to be retracted fully until puberty, smegma, dead skin and bodily fluids can build up and cause various problems including infection. Circumcision is known to be an advantage in situations like these, as the removal of the foreskin can prevent any build up.
Cost - Elective circumcisions may cost a pretty penny, but it is nothing in comparison to the costs of the procedure when preformed on older children or adults. It is also a very small percentage in comparison to the costs of covering the treatment of penile infections, STD's, etc..
Surgical Mistakes - These are most common when circumcisions are preformed in the first few days of an infants life in a hospital, as the procedure is either rushed or preformed by a junior surgeon or new obstetrician. Under these conditions it's much easier to make a surgical mistake then when preformed by an experienced pediatrician or surgeon at a planned appointment within the first few weeks of life. Even with this in mind, even an experienced pediatrician or surgeon with plenty of time, experience and patience can make mistakes.
Infection - If not cared for properly after the circumcision, the area has the potential of becoming infected with a diaper rash or other bacterial infection. Thankfully, this is rare.
Bleeding - Sometimes the site of the circumcision will start bleeding and not clot. This is usually stopped by applying pressure for a short amount of time, but it is well documented that 2% of infant boys who have been circumcised, will need to be hospitalized to take care of the excessive bleeding.
Pain - There is no way around it, circumcision is painful at any age. Though the actual procedure is usually the least painful as dorsal penile blocks are now used to block out most of the pain, but the needle to inject the medicine still hurts and so does the healing process that follows the circumcision.
Reduced Parental Bonding - Since one or both parents insist on being present during the circumcision, some infants will not want to bond with that parent (or both) for a while after the circumcision.
Breast Feeding - When the circumcision is preformed within the first few days of life, it can complicate the issue of breast feeding. A baby who is still only a few days old is still learning to latch on and suck properly and when they are in pain, they won't be as eager to work to feed. This often leads to bottle feeding to help keep them fed and hydrated while they heal and is another good reason to wait at least a week before having a circumcision preformed (if you decide to do so).
Cost - While circumcisions clearly have some benefits, most medical agencies have declared it an unnecessary procedure which means it is usually not covered by insurance. Parents who opt for circumcision will often have to pay anywhere between $150 to $800.
Intact Foreskin: Pro's & Con's
The "intact", "un-cut", "uncircumcised" or "natural" penis is one that has foreskin in all it's natural greatness. Let's explore the pro's and con's of the intact male.
Disease Prevention - It has been proven that the foreskin of the penis can help prevent many diseases and infections. It can do this because of the smegma that has a natural antibacterial in it that is constantly around the glans when the foreskin is covering it.
Protection - The foreskin covers the glans, which means that it can protect the glans (head of the penis) from rubbing against clothing or getting nicks and scratches in various ways. It acts the same as the sheath to a sword would, keeping it safe inside until it is needed once again.
Physical and Emotional Trauma - Babies are gifted with the ability to quickly forget about something once a few days have passed and they physically heal very quickly, but this does not negate the fact that circumcision is a painful procedure both physically and emotionally. Even with anesthesia, many infants still experience what is called "residual pain" which is intense pressure and discomfort. These baby boys also go through several days of pain after the circumcision because they cannot be given any pain medications. So by staying "un-cut", you are keeping your boy from the pain of circumcision (so long as they never have to get one when they are older).
Natural Coloring - The head of the penis in it's natural state, can be any color from passionate pink to deep purple which is said to act as an arousal aide to the opposite sex (and the same sex sometimes). And while this was obviously most necessary when humans were still in early evolutionary stages, that doesn't mean it's not a benefit.
Lubrication - The circumcised penis is at a disadvantage to the intact penis, because it has a way of drying out itself and the vagina it plays in. A natural penis not only comes with lubrication, but because of the foreskin, the natural lubrication in the vagina is better able to stay in the vicinity and be helpful.
Cost - It doesn't cost a thing to leave your son's foreskin intact. And so long as his penis is kept clean, the chance of infections running up the medical bill are low.
Memory - There are plenty of boys and men of various ages who end up having to have a circumcision preformed due to various medical problems or disfunctions that result in making a circumcision necessary. When the procedure is preformed on an infant, they pretty much forget about it once their penis heals up. When a circumcision is preformed on a toddler, older child or adult man - it stays in the memory forever. This isn't a completely horrible thing to remember, but many men who've been put in this position wish their parents had had the procedure done when they were babies.
More Detailed Care - It's not a lot more care, but an intact penis requires that parents of a young boys must try to keep the inside of their babies foreskin clean. This isn't easy at first, as the foreskin is usually only partially retractable when boys reach toddler age and isn't fully retractable until puberty. The requires much more attention to detail when cleaning a babies penis to avoid infection and smegma build up. On top of this, many parents feel uncomfortable at the idea of retracting their son's penises at any age due to sexual taboo's, which isn't a disadvantage to the boy, but certainly is to many parents.
Hygiene - If the foreskin isn't cleaned thoroughly and moved around everyday, it becomes an easy breeding ground for bacteria, fungus and viruses, especially if there are any nicks or tears in the foreskin anywhere. This is often how infant penile infections - and later when they are adults - STD's are often contracted. An uncleaned natural penis is also susceptible to develop rather undesirable smells even after a short while.
Urinary Tract Infections - About every 1 in 100 uncircumcised infants will develop a UTI within the first year of life. This can be very deadly for a young baby, as it is harder to notice the problem until it has developed pretty far, and for a young baby this can quickly lead to a kidney infection.
Condoms - Many men with an un-cut member find they have a harder time using condoms because it is harder to find an 'exact fit' which is more necessary with extra skin. This creates more anxiety and while it's usually an easy problem to solve for older men, it's not often so easy for pubescent males and teenagers who might engaging in sexual activity before they are truly mature enough to be doing so. This possess a fairly large problem in the world of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as many intact young men decide to try to fore-go their life jacket when they go for a swim, instead of asking for help or spending the time to find the right prophylactic.
The Jury Is Still Out....
There are some issues that are cited by others as benefits or consequences, which are usually anecdotal in nature because they rely on mostly opinion and not fact. Some of these are:
Genital Mutilation - While many circumcised men protest that they are not mutants or mutilated, many mothers and intact males feel that circumcision is a form of genital mutilation that should not be preformed on infants regardless of any potential benefits. This is a subjective opinion, as many men who've had circumcisions later in life for medical reasons, wish their parents had chosen to have it done when they were infants and in the same token, many circumcised men feel they should've had a choice and wish their parents would've waited. It depends on your point of view.
Moral Implications - Many parents have either a religious or philosophical belief that it is wrong to have a circumcision preformed on any boy younger than 18, and feel that the decision should be left to them when they are adults or if a true medical need arises. Many other parents feel that it is worth the benefits to have their sons circumcised to prevent any possible problems and feel morally bound to do this for their infants sons who can't speak for themselves yet.
Reduced Sensitivity - There have not been any accurate studies preformed to prove or disprove this theory, but some medical professionals feel that circumcision leads to reduced sensitivity to the glans or head of the penis during sexual activity. Both circumcised and intact men have been questioned on this and both sides differ on their opinions. Some circumcised men feel that they are not hindered at all even if they might be less sensitive and are actually glad they aren't more sensitive, while many other circumcised men don't feel they are lacking any sensitivity in comparison to their natural friends. Plenty intact males are more than happy with their sexual experiences, whereas some feel that they get "trapped in their own skin" so to speak. Each man is unique in their experiences regardless of their foreskin status and since there are no plausible studies, it's only opinion that drives this objection.
Increase Sexual Pleasure - Medical professionals and men alike have claimed that both cut and uncut men experience increased pleasure for different reasons. There have been a few studies done on this, but nothing substantial enough to make this a fact. For now it is still up to personal experience or opinion.
One Is Better Than The Other - Neither medical science nor personal opinion can prove that either circumcision or intact foreskin is better. Both have their benefits and consequences, advantages and risks. It is only opinion or personal experience that makes the grass look greener on the other side.
Sexual Preference - Many people claim that women prefer a circumcised penis over an intact one, though through many studies it can be proved that women are satisfied with either, can learned to love both and have preferences just as diverse as each penis.
Psychological Damage - Many medical agencies have attempted to figure out if circumcision does any long term damage to infant boys. Some studies have shown PSTD to effect infants, while other studies have shown no long term effects. Most studies though, are swayed by bias and the rest simply state that there is no specific empirical evidence to show that circumcision causes or does not cause any long term psychological consequences for the infant. However, plenty of psychological damage appears to occur in the parents who have are put to the decision of having their cons circumcised or not, and then deciding whether or not to be in the room...
Something to keep in mind...
Whether you decide to circumcise or leave the decision up to your boy or medical necessity, it's important to keep in mind that either option could turn out to be the best decision or the worst decision you ever make for your boy. With that in mind, as long as you make your decision from an informed and loving perspective, there is no reason for you to feel guilty or bad about either decision. Likewise, there is no reason to force your view or decision upon others or try to make them feel guilty for what they feel is best for their baby.