One of the most common reasons given for circumcision is hygiene and future penile health, particularly avoiding infection, which can lead to more serious complications down the road.
But there are other aspects parents consider when deciding whether or not to circumcise their son.
Social Reasons to Circumcise
Some parents fear that their son will be ridiculed or teased or bullied about the fact that he’s not circumcised. This can be a particular issue where gym classes are involved requiring changing into and out of gym gear. Perhaps the fear is that family members would ostracize or tease.
In fact, many parents have chosen not to have their boys circumcised, so it is quite likely that the other boys they encounter in the change room are also uncircumcised.
As for potential family relations, keep in mind that choosing to circumcise or not to circumcise is a personal and private decision. You shouldn’t feel pressured to go ahead with the procedure just because all the men in your family have had it done.
Religious Reasons to Circumcise
Circumcision for religious reasons is one of the hallmarks of the Jewish faith. Circumcision was carried out first in the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament and the Torah.
The act of circumcision for the Jewish people was, and continues to be, considered as a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham’s descendants. Baby boys are circumcised when they are 8 days old. (4)
Muslims also practice circumcision.
Reasons not to Circumcise
Risks – Most of the risk associated with circumcision come through the surgical procedure. There is always a chance of things not going right during the procedure, or the site becoming infected following.
Purpose – Increasingly, moms and dads are beginning to believe that the foreskin serves a purpose. And it does. The foreskin protects the tip of the penis from the potential irritation or infection. (3)
“The glans at birth is delicate and easily irritated by urine and feces. The foreskin shields the glans; with circumcision ... the glans and especially the urinary opening ... may become irritated or infected ...” (3)
Sexual Pleasure – You’re probably not thinking about your newborn or soon-to-be-born son having sex, but any decision you make can affect the rest of his life. The foreskin is full of nerve endings that increase sexual pleasure. Circumcision decreases sexual pleasure.
Hygiene – Many of the infections that parents fear for their son if he were to remain uncircumcised can be prevented with proper, simple penile hygiene, and avoiding sex with multiple partners.
There certainly is no end to the debate on whether a boy should be circumcised or not. Traditionally speaking, a Jewish family that does not circumcise may be cut off from the Jewish community, though there is an increasing movement among Jews who oppose the procedure as "barbaric, primitive, torturous and mutilating". (5)
For non-Jewish families, whether you choose one or the other should not be cause of ridicule and angst. This is a decision only you can make. There really is no right or wrong answer.
1) Circumcision. American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Sept 13, 2012.
2) Circumcision. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Web. Sept 13, 2012.
3) Newborns: Care of the Uncircumcised Penis: Guidelines for Parents. American Academy of Pediatrics. Web. Sept 13, 2012.
4) Circumcision. New World Encyclopedia. Web. Sept 13, 2012.
5) Jews Against Circumcision. Web. Sept 13, 2012.
Reviewed September 14, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith