If my girls would have been boys, they would have been circumcised.
Whoa!!!! DON’T LEAVE! Read to the end.
This is my personal journey on learning about infant circumcision:
When I had my first at 19, I didn’t think about circumcision much (read “at all”). I didn’t know it was something I should research. I thought everyone did it so that’s what I would do too. I also thought it was something I was supposed to do due to religious beliefs.
When I was pregnant with my 2nd I read a book about gentle birth choices. It had a chapter on circumcision and it called it “genital mutilation” and was very against it. Honestly, the term “genital mutilation” really turned me off. I mentally shut down and didn’t take anything said in that chapter seriously because I thought the wording was extreme. (I also had a feeling I was having another girl so didn’t concern myself with looking for research some where else).
During my third pregnancy, I followed several different blogs and facebook pages supporting natural birth. Whenever the topic of circumcision came up, it was hard to sort out opinions from facts whenever circumcision came up. I found people were either 100% for it (saying “I did it and my son is fine!”) or 100% against it.
Towards the end of my pregnancy my midwife asked me “If you have a boy, are you planning to circumcise him?” I looked at my husband, and then her, and said: “Yes. I mean, why wouldn’t we?”
I didn’t say it as a statement – I said it as a question. I was wanting an answer. I think she read by my husband’s body language that the topic wasn’t open for discussion, and she didn’t say anything. (I was open for it, he *might* not have been at the time).
As I was working on my certification to become a childbirth educator, I was forced to sit down and research it. I had to dig around and sort through all kinds of information floating around the web. I found and read studies and statistics. Honestly, it became pretty interesting for me.
Luckily, since that time a Birth Boot Camp instructor compiled all the research and put it into this article. This is the BEST article out there on the web (in my opinion) that takes a non-confrontational look at all the research/studies out there about the pros and cons of circumcision, how it is performed, and anything related to the topic.
I’m going to focus this blog post on facts that I found extremely interesting and helpful. These are things I wish someone would have told me. You should read the article above and make discoveries for yourself because you can never have enough information when making decisions for your children.
These are my favorite facts:
The foreskin (that is removed during circumcision) has many cool and beneficial functions:
It is a built in, self-cleansing system of the penis because the foreskin produces smegma – which is made up of skin oils, moisture and exfoliated skin cells. This combination is anti-bacterial and anti-viral and keeps the penis clean in the same way that the presence of smegma (the sometimes white and creamy substance found around the clitoris and labia) keeps the vagina clean and bacteria free.
The foreskin has about 20,000 nerve endings in it making it the most sensitive part of the penis. It makes up about half of the penis’s skin when left intact. An adult man’s foreskin is about 12-15 square inches of skin. Here are some comparison photos (obviously contains nudity)
MOST of the men in the world are intact (not circumcised). America’s circumcision rates are dropping as more and more parents have access to research about circumcision.
It is not medically necessary and is classified as a “cosmetic surgery” There are no medical associations that recommend routine circumcision in America or around the world.
It is the ONLY cosmetic surgery being routinely performed without medical consent of the person undergoing it.
The common numbing agent used to numb the penis during the procedure says on the package insert says it is not to be used on the genitals of children.
Foreskins are for sale! Many parents are unaware that hospitals turn around and sell their son’s foreskin to cosmetic companies to be used in products such as wrinkle creams. It is made up of wonderful, healthy tissues and highly sought after. (This was my “ah ha!” moment – if it’s so great, why don’t we let our sons keep it?)
It’s a money making market – everything from the costs of the surgery, the tools and medical equipment needed (like this circumcision board and restraints), and the selling of the foreskin means that someone, somewhere is making money off a child’s foreskin.
My religion didn’t require, or even promote, circumcision – which I originally thought it had and it turns out, I was dead wrong.
(Sidenote- I will be doing a post about religious circumcision in the future. In the meantime please check out this handy little tool for an overview of what YOUR religion says about circumcision if that is your main consideration of the procedure.)
The history of circumcision was also fascinating to me. Everything about it. Would you believe that one big reason we are still circumcising in America is because John Harvey Kellogg, the man who invented Kellogg’s Corn Flakes recommended the practice to help prevent adolescents from masturbating?
Female circumcision (the removal of the clitoris in girls) is illegal in America but still performed in many countries. Many European countries are working to ban infant male circumcision in addition to female circumcision.
Some of the risks and complications of the procedure include:
- Too much skin being removed which can result in restricted growth and painful erections during adulthood
- Too little skin being removed
- Botched jobs which leads to need for subsequent surgery
- Loss of penis
Again – this article goes over all these risks in detail and how often complications occur – please check it out.
There are studies siting possible benefits to circumcision such as:
Reduction in urinary tract infections by less than 1%:
Boys are less likely to develop a urinary tract infection as their female counter parts are and little girls are simply given an antibiotic. Additionally, this study found that for every ONE UTI prevented by circumcision, TWO boys would experience complications from the procedure. Another thing to consider is that many care providers are not trained on proper intact care and forcefully retract the foreskin which can cause problems that weren’t there to begin with.
Reduction in HIV rates:
Studies of men in Africa have suggested a link between circumcision and reduction of HIV infections. However, how the study was conducted is very flawed (discussed in detail in this youtube) and this study finds that circumcision does NOT reduce HIV in U.S. men.
Reduces the rates of penile cancer:
Penile cancer accounts for less than 1% of cancers in men in the United States. The American Cancer Society itself states that the risks and benefits of circumcision should be considered taking into account that penile cancer is “very uncommon in the United States, even among uncircumcised men.”
Prevention of Phimosis:
The foreskin remains tight on the head of the penis during youth to protect the penis. Eventually it retracts on it’s own, however occasionally it does not. This happens less than 2% of the time in adult males. Of the 2%, over 75% of the time all that is needed to treat phimosis is use of a steroid cream.
For further break down of all of these studies, please read this article).
Best Informational Videos on Circumcision:
This one is about 30 minutes long by Ryan McAllister, Ph. D. giving a lecture on circumcision in a human sexuality class at Georgetown University.
Here is another great one:
What I think:
I have many friends who have chosen to leave their sons intact. I also have some friends who have circumcised sons. They are wonderful mothers and I don’t doubt for one single second how much they love their son or think any less of them as mothers.
Because I do not know their journey or how they came to that decision. I tend to assume, like me, no one shared factual, evidence based information with them. Maybe their care provider glossed over the risks of the procedure when they inquired about it. Maybe there was family/religious pressure and they didn’t know their options. Perhaps these parents assumed it was a medically necessary procedure like I had when I was pregnant. Or all too often, one parent wanted to and the other one didn’t which resulted in long heated, tear-filled arguments between the parents. Maybe the partner that didn’t want it done waved a white flag and retreated in defeat. I always remind myself that I do not know the particulars of their journey and that it is that – THEIR journey.
But this post is not about them or for them.
This post is for the moms who have never been introduced to this subject. This post is talking about things that are hard to talk about in a non-threatening way.
My girls would have been circumcised if they had been boys because NO ONE spoke up, even when I asked.
A few months ago I found out that almost every male in my family is intact. No one passed the information they had when making that decision on to me during any of my three pregnancies. They probably didn’t think it was their place, or maybe they were worried about offending me. But truthfully, I am offended that no one shared information with me. What if I had a son that suffered a major complications from the surgery? I would have have been angry that no one told me about things that could happen.
When a doctors says “Do you want him circumcised?” a parent will answer most typically with a “Yes” or a “No” That doesn’t really sound like informed consent to me but to a care provider, it is. Why can’t they say “Would you like me to provide you with information about circumcision?” and take the time to fully explore the whole topic.
I want moms to know. I don’t want to walk on egg shells and hide real information because I am afraid I might hurt moms feelings who have had their sons circumcised. I want to help moms that are starting their journey by providing them with evidence based research that will help her make a fully informed decision.
Why aren’t moms talking about it like civilized human beings? Instead moms are fighting about it on facebook. A mom will call it “genital mutilation” and the moms who have a circumcised sons will fire back with a “I did it and my son is fine.” They automatically assume they are being judged and are being called a bad mother. Everyone gets offended and defensive which makes the learning environment not conducive to accepting any new information presented.
All of that needs to STOP.
I have finally decided to stop hiding and avoiding this topic because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I definitely do not want to hurt the feelings of my friends who have circumcised their sons. I just want to share information in a positive way with moms who are trying to sort through all the research.
At one time, my husband and I were pro circumcision. By “pro circumcision” I mean, we didn’t know enough to have an opinion on it one way or the other. My attitude towards circumcision, after spending a large part of two years researching it and finding out it is not medically necessary, eventually boiled down to this simply idea of gender equality. If my girls would have been boys when they were born, I would have circumcised them. But they were not boys, they were girls, and circumcision is not something I would choose for them so I wont be choosing it for a son. It honestly took me awhile to come to that choice. I wanted to be sure I had all my research and facts right. All it took for my husband to decided was about 10 seconds of this clip. (Graphic by nature of subject) And he adds, the fact that the Spartans were intact. (Super fun fact: Gerard Butler who starred in the movie 300 is intact too)
I am proud to say that we have both decided that if we ever have a son, he will remain the way he came -like a Greek Spartan Warrior.
(My husband added that last bit of the sentence to my draft and it made me laugh so I decided to keep it in)