Is Circumcision Good or Bad?

Reviewed on 11/11/2020

Is circumcision good or bad?

Circumcision is an individual decision that parents should discuss with their son's pediatrician.
Circumcision is an individual decision that parents should discuss with their son's pediatrician.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that there is insufficient scientific evidence to justify circumcision in young boys. Many new parents are a little skeptical about whether to have their newborn son circumcised. This is often a sensitive debate in some cultures. It has been performed for 6,000 years in a religious context and is currently the most common operation performed in men in the United States, but it remains controversial.

In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Programme on Human Immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (UNAIDS) jointly recommended circumcision in men for protection against HIV infection.

In a 2012 report, AAP stated that the benefits of circumcision, such as the prevention of urinary infection that can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss, outweigh the risks. It states that any health benefits of circumcision are not great enough to recommend it as a routine procedure for all newborn boys.

Other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts and penile cancer, are still questionable. It does not represent convincing reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves.

Your doctor or pediatrician may inform you about the health benefits and risks of circumcision in newborns without bias. Sometimes, your doctor may advise you not to circumcise your newborn due to certain medical conditions such as hypospadias (urinary opening is at the wrong place) and prematurity (until the baby becomes healthy enough).

Circumcision before the age of consent is not a very appropriate health-promotion strategy when there are more effective and less ethically problematic alternatives. However, circumcision in older men shows a higher risk of complications.

Moreover, it is important for both circumcised and uncircumcised men to maintain good genital hygiene and for uncircumcised men to regularly and gently wash the area under their foreskin to prevent possible infections. Using condoms during sex can help both circumcised and uncircumcised men to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Ultimately parents should make a decision on whether circumcision is in the best interest of their son. The decision should be totally personal and they should weigh medical information in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs.

What does circumcision mean?

At birth, boys are born with a hood of skin (foreskin/prepuce) that covers the tip of the penis (glans). In circumcision, this foreskin is surgically removed, exposing the tip of the penis.

Usually, circumcision is performed by doctors in the first few days of life. For circumcision, the infant must be stable and healthy. It may be riskier if done later in life.

Is circumcision painful?

Yes, circumcision is painful. However, some effective and safe pain relievers can make it tolerable. American Association of Pediatricians (AAP) has recommended some pain relievers to be used to reduce pain from circumcision.

Your doctor may use local anesthetics during the operation to make it less painful for the baby

  • A topical cream that is applied on the penis and left for at least 20 to 40 minutes before starting the procedure.
  • An anesthetic injection that is immediately effective and works for a slightly longer period.
  • Sometimes, your doctor may give acetaminophen in addition to anesthesia, which helps to lessen the discomfort during and several hours after the procedure.

What are the complications?

See your pediatrician if

  • Your baby does not urinate normally within six to eight hours after the procedure.
  • Bleeding does not stop.
  • There is worsening of redness around the tip of the penis after three to five days.
  • There is a yellowish discharge that lasts more than a week.

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References
Medscape Medical Reference

WHO


Pediatrics


HealthyChildren.org


Textbook of Pediatric Care


ACOG


Missouri Medicine


Global Health: Science and Practice


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