The Pros and Cons of Male Circumcision
In the United States, well over half of all male newborns are circumcised. These numbers are among the highest in the world with circumcision rates of between 60-80%. Although these numbers have been dropping in the recent years, they are much higher than rates in European countries, for example, where circumcision rates are less than 20%. It is interesting to note that most of these circumcisions are not medically or religiously necessicated. In other words, parents don't generally have any compelling reason, medical or religious, to circumcise their male newborns. Perhaps, the United States is the only country in the world where most non-medical, non-religous newborn male circumcisions are done. The circumcision debate has been an emotive one. You would find groups on both sides of the circumcision debate, passionately putting forth their views about why circumcision is good versus why circumcision is bad. In all the din, parents are often confused about who is right and who is wrong. Parents mostly make this decision based on preconceived notions or after listening to relatives, friends, etc., instead of taking a well-informed decision. It is thus important that parents know the full facts about the pros and cons of circumcision, so that they are in a position to make a well-informed choice. What follows are some of the important pros and cons of newborn male circumcisions. Hopefully, this would enable parents in making a well-informed decision.
Pros of Newborn Male Circumcision:
- Circumcision is thought to be a much easier procedure when done at the newborn stage, rather than later on.
- The circumcised penis is thought to be easier to care for.
- Circumcised males are thought to have lower incidences of urinary tract infections.
- Removal of the foreskin is thought to provide a greater degree of protection against sexually-transmitted diseases.
- Circumcised males have good protection against penile cancer.
- Circumcision may prevent potential future complications such as phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin or tight foreskin).
- Circumcision may result in a lower likelihood of transmitting HIV.
- Circumcision may lower the cervical cancer risk for their partners.
- Circumcised males are thought to provider better sexual satisfaction to their partners, as a result of requiring longer times for reaching an orgasm compared to uncircumcised males.
Cons of Newborn Male Circumcision:
- As with all surgical procedures, there are risks to newborn male circumcision. Some of these are:
a. Excessing bleeding.
c. Snipping of the glans (top of penis) accidentally (cases of these have been reported, though rare).
d. Cutting the foreskin too short or keeping the foreskin too long.
e. Possible future surgery to correct complications arising out of circumcision such as penile adhesions, tags, etc.
f. Scar formation that requires a second surgey for removal.
g. Adverse reactions to anesthetic drugs used during the procedure.
- Circumcised males generally experience less sensation, as a result of the process called keratinization, which progressively is thought to decrease sensitivity of the glans. The foreskin has a rich supply of blood vessels and nerve endings and is thought to play a crucial role in sexual stimulation in males.
- The foreskin makes it much easier for men to masturbate. Lack of foreskin necessitates requirement of artificial lubricants. The rolling-back-and-forth action of the foreskin provides for trauma-free stimulation, whereas circumcised ones may experience greater friction and trauma during stimulation. It is thought that male circumcisions were actively encouraged in the earlier part of the century primarily as a tool to discourage male masturbation.
- The foreskin is thought to both protect the glans by shielding it as well as protecting it keeping it moist and soft by shielding it against friction via clothing and thus keeping it sensitive.
- The foreskin contributes towards lubrication and the to-and-fro motion of the foreskin is thought to stimulate the female clitoris. This gliding action is thought to enhance pleasure both partners experience. Some of the functions of the foreskin are mentioned in the video link provided below.
Actual surgery on a baby done by a doctor in a hospital is shown, so viewer discretion is advised.
Some Common Non-Medical, Non-Religous Reasons Parents Choose to Get Their Sons Circumcised:
- Because the father himself was circumcised and wants his son to be too.
- Because of fear of your son being teased by his peers.
- Preformed notions of the foreskin being a vestegial part like the appendix.
- Preformed notions of the foreskin being dirty and hygienically unmanageable.
- The notion that being uncircumcised increases the risk of penile cancer.
- For cosmetic effect. The notion that an uncircumcised penis looks ugly and his girlfriends would probably look down upon him for that - because most American women consider it odd and unattractive.
Some points to Ponder Over for Parents:
- The foreskin is not a vestigial or function-less part of the penis. It has erogenous functions. See some of the functions of the foreskin in the video given below.
- There are consequences to circumcision. Some of them are mentioned in the video links given below.
- There is no significant difference in the risk of developing urinary tract infections in uncircumcised versus circumcised males. The difference can at best be categorized as slightly in favor of circumcised males.
- The chances of an uncircumcised male developing penile cancer is extremely less. Only about 0.2% of all cancers in the US. Good hygiene is all it takes to deal with even this minimal risk.
- The finding about circumcision decreasing HIV infection rates is based primarily on an African study, conducted in Africa among males who never use condoms. Whether one can realistically translate that finding and apply it in the Western situation is debatable.
- As for the hygiene factor, an uncircumcised penis can be cleaned easily with soap and water and by retracting the foreskin and cleaning under, once it begins to retract. The hygiene argument can be put forth for other body parts as well. Cutting off rather than manage seems to be a short-sighted approach.
- Some men grow up feeling that their foreskin shouldn't have been cut off and harbor resentment at the fact that theirs was. As circumcision is an irreversible procedure, parents should put a great deal of thought into this before deciding one way or other.
- The pain factor: Doctors used to argue that since the newborn's nervous system is not fully developed, they don't experience pain. This view seems to have changed in recent years. Some doctors use anesthesia, others say they would, but don't. However, the fact that the baby feels discomfort can't be doubted, either from the actual procedure itself or from being restrained/restricted during the procedure. There could be long-term consquences to having been subjected to this invasive, traumatic process.
Parents who wish to have their newborn circumcised should view the video of an actual circumcision provided below. This would given them an idea of what their newborn would go through and what the process really is like. Also, if they are going to be physically present during the procedure, this would help mentally prepare you for the procedure. Viewer discretion is advised - it ain't a pretty thing to watch!!!
Getting your newborn circumcised should be an extremely well-thought-out decision. Some parents harbor life-long regrets at having their newborn undergo this procedure, especially since they discover many facts about circumcision later in life. Hence, it helps if you read up as much as you can and consider some of the points given above and view the instructional videos given above, before you make this most important decision.