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To Circumcise or Not to Circumcise… THAT is the Question!

Updated: Apr 17

There are a number of topics that my clients often ask for more information about, and one of those particular topics is circumcision. If you are unfamiliar with what circumcision is, circumcision is a procedure that removes the foreskin from the human penis. This is routinely done within the first few days of an infant male’s life, either in the hospital by an OB-GYN or a urologist.


Here are 4 steps to work through as you are considering a circumcision:


  1. Demystify the Intact Penis A large portion of Americans are unaware of what a healthy, whole, intact penis looks like. So, I encourage you to actually look at pictures of intact penises and circumcised penises. The foreskin is meant to cover the head of the penis to help keep it sensitive to touch, just as the clitoral hood is meant to cover the clitoris to keep it sensitive to touch. When exposed, as you will see in the pictures, the head becomes calloused and loses sensitivity.


2. Watch a Circumcision


I have a feeling that you wouldn’t want to have a medical procedure performed on your newborn without understanding what was actually going to happen. I encourage you to watch a video of circumcision at yourwholebaby.org.


3. Watch “An Elephant in the Hospital”


There is a presentation called “An Elephant in the Hospital,” which is available on yourwholebaby.org. It was recorded by Dr. McAllister at Georgetown University and answers the questions:


  • What is infant circumcision?

  • Why is the practice common in U.S. hospitals and not in other countries?

  • What does it remove and how does that affect the child?

  • Does scientific data suggest that circumcision has benefits?

  • What are the potential complications?

  • How does it affect sex?

  • What do ethics committees say?


4. Know the Risks


All surgeries come with risks and the possibility of complications. Circumcision complications are not incredibly rare. Some complications present themselves during or right after the surgery; other complications aren’t evident until years later or even after puberty.


It’s your duty as a parent to understand the risks of circumcision. Please do not make a body- altering decision for your child without first reading this document. This is a comprehensive overview of the risks and benefits of circumcision.



If after going through these 4 steps, you are still unsure about whether or not to circumcise, here are some additional resources that you can utilize to help you make an informed, empowered decision. The following resources are anti-circumcision, neutral, and pro-circumcision. It is my hope that by providing you with these resources that you can make an educated choice for your child.


Circumcision Resources


Articles:

-An expansive online collection of abstracts, full text articles, and other material relating to male circumcision.


-An article (also presented in the form of a podcast episode, listed below) which explores the topic of circumcision in detail, including discussion on relevant human anatomy, where circumcision came from, why some parents choose non-religious circumcision today, how common it is around the world, evidence on circumcision for infection and disease prevention (including the limitations of that evidence,) the potential health risks and complications that can occur during and soon after circumcision, and the procedure itself.


-This article highlights various studies that reveal connections between lack of circumcision as a major risk factor for penile cancer, the protective nature of circumcision against HPV infection, and the reasons why HPV is higher in uncircumcised men.


-This Psychology Today article highlights commonly held beliefs about circumcision and debunks them using factual evidence.


Videos:

-A video made by Professor Ryan McAllister, Biophysicist, Father, and Founding Coordinator of the organization "Not Just Skin." In it, he answers the following questions: "What is infant circumcision?" "Why is the practice common in the United States and not in other countries?" What does it remove and how does that affect the child? Does scientific data suggest that circumcision has benefits? What are the potential complications? How does it affect sexuality? Is it a medical procedure or a social surgery? And more.


-A comical but factual overview of the history of male circumcision made by Adam Conover.


-A video made by Doctors Opposing Circumcision that describes the structure, function, and purpose of the foreskin, a necessary context for any discussion of its removal.



Websites:

-Your Whole Baby’s mission is to provide gentle education to parents-to-be and healthcare providers about the functions and care of foreskin, and the harms and risks of neonatal circumcision of the penis, carried out on minors too young to provide consent. The following are the 6 steps that Your Whole Baby recommends all parents understand about circumcision: 1. Demystify the intact penis. 2. Watch a circumcision. 3. Know the risks. 4. Watch "An Elephant in the Hospital." 5. Read a doctor's point of view. 6. Read a parent's regret story.


Documentaries/Movies:

-A documentary that explores both sides of the circumcision debate, including the growing Intactivist movement (intact + activist), which believes all human beings have a right to keep the body they were born with intact. This is the first documentary of its scale to comprehensively explore this cutting edge issue, which involves sex, politics, and religion, all in the most personal way possible.


Podcasts:

-This episode explores the topic of circumcision in detail, including discussion on relevant human anatomy, where circumcision came from, why some parents choose non-religious circumcision today, how common it is around the world, evidence on circumcision for infection and disease prevention (including the limitations of that evidence,) the potential health risks and complications that can occur during and soon after circumcision, and the procedure itself.


-In this episode, Andrew Freedman, pediatric urologist, Godfrey Kigozi, HIV researcher, and Caroline Pukall, sex researcher, explore the questions, "What are the risks of circumcision? and "Are there any medical benefits?"


Books:

-This book, written by Billy Ray Boyd, debunks the medical reasons for infant circumcision and places them in their cultural and historical context. The author explores the sexual and psychological consequences of circumcision, and provides a world view on the cultural and personal impact circumcision has on men and boys, while highlighting the possibilities for healing.


Organizations:

-A nonprofit organization comprised of an international network of physicians who seek to empower parents and medical professionals with education, resources, and support, so that they can make thoughtful decisions regarding circumcision. These doctors are dedicated to protecting the genital integrity and eventual autonomy of all children, serving both health professionals and the public through education, support, and advocacy.

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