Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Circumcision: Let's Cut To The Truth

This post is not to judge, and it is certainly not intended to shame or guilt families who have chosen circumcision.  Sifting through, and differentiating the facts versus the myths related to circumcision can be a daunting task.  This is to assist families in finding the information they need to make an informed, educated decision.

"When we know better, we do better." -Maya Angelou

Circumcision, the surgical removal of the foreskin from the penis, is most commonly performed on newborns.  The foreskin, containing a comparable amount of nerve endings to a clitoris, is a highly sensitive, functioning part of the male anatomy.  It's purpose is to protect the glans, or the head of the penis from abrasions and to keep dirt and bacteria from the urinary tract.  During the procedure,the baby's arms and legs are restrained using a circumstraint.  The foreskin is clamped and forcibly separated from the head of the penis, something that is not supposed to happen until adolescence, when it occurs naturally.  This premature separation can cause damage to the glans and is extremely painful for the newborn.  Once separated, the foreskin is cut, and pushed back to expose the head of the penis.  A vice-like device is then slipped over the penis and tightened until the foreskin is removed.
A baby in a circumstraint.  Photo from www.intactivists.blogspot.com
This procedure, which has been documented to have no medical value and to be for cosmetic purposes only, is not without risks. Every parent choosing to proceed with circumcision should be fully aware of those risks:
Concealed penis after circumcision.  Source
  • Hemorrhage.  The foreskin and penis is a highly vascularized area that contains a significant amount of blood flow. It is not unlikely for a vein to be nicked during the circumcision procedure, resulting in blood loss. It doesn't take much blood for a baby to bleed to death. A newborn only has a total of  11.5 ounces of blood.  That's just shy of a cup-and-a-half.  A newborn only needs to lose 1 ounce to hemorrhage, and 2.3 ounces, a shot glass, to bleed to death.  You can read more about it here from DrMomma.org.
  • Removing too much of the foreskin.  A baby's penis is so small, it can be difficult to determine where to cut.  When some of the skin on the shaft is accidentally removed, it results in a wound that is unable to heal and is extremely painful for the child.  Sadly, this happens entirely too often. (Read about two families stories here and here) Just recently, a mohel accidentally cut off a third of a baby's penis in a circumcision ritual, nearly killing the baby.  Mistakes like this happen, often taking several surgeries to repair, if repair is even possible.  In some instances, the child will be affected by a botched circumcision for the rest of their life.  
  • Shock, stress, and a poor breastfeeding relationship.  Circumcision is usually done with no pain relief.  Such a traumatic experience in the first few days of life can leave a baby emotionally damaged, often causing shock, and a poor breastfeeding relationship.  Some may say that a lack of crying means the baby is not in pain, when in reality they are in a state of shock in an effort to avoid or escape the pain.  Cortisol levels, a stress hormone, are 3-4 times higher during circumcision than prior to the procedure.  It is also thought that the pain and trauma from undergoing circumcision may impact the child's response to pain or stress throughout their life.  Canadian investigators report that during vaccinations at age 4-6 months, circumcised boys had an increased behavioral pain response and cried for significantly longer periods than did intact boys. For more information about this click here. 
  • Risk of infection.  This is obvious.  An open wound, a dirty diaper... you get the picture. 
  • Sexual repercussions.  The foreskin has 20,000 sexual nerve endings and is extremely sensitive to the touch.  The penis is designed to slide in and out of the vagina smoothly as the foreskin rolls back and forth.  Many women report painful intercourse as a result of their circumcised partners feeling the need to thrust their brains out in order to achieve orgasm.  When the foreskin is removed, the head of the penis begins to develop a thick layer of skin to protect it, making it much less sensitive.  As a result, circumcised men are 4.5 times more likely to have issues with erectile dysfunction.  Most American men are circumcised.  They make up 5% of the world's population yet are responsible for 46% of Viagra sales.  Impotence in adult males can be a direct consequence of circumcision.  Watch a great explanation of this and the role of the foreskin in the video below.
  • Death.  117 babies die each year as a result of circumcision.  You may think that 117 is not very many and the risk of circumcision must be low. Tell the mother of one of those 117 babies that circumcision isn't risky.  I'm sure she'll beg to differ.  There are 117 deaths every year that are COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE.

  • The Getting-Teased-In-The-Locker-Room argument:  In 2009, the circumcision rate in the US dropped to 32.5%.  If this trends continues, circumcised boys will be the minority in the locker room. 
  • Intact penises get infected often and cause problems: Infections in intact males are rare.  If, by chance, an infection does occur, they are treatable with antibiotics.  You don't remove normally functioning body parts because they "may" get infected.  My toenail may get infected. Should I remove it now in an effort to avoid the hassle?  No.  If it does get infected, I will treat it appropriately at that time.  A penis deserves the same courtesy.
  • Circumcision prevents HIV/AIDS & other STDs:  The United States has one of the highest incidence of HIV/AIDS, yet we are the only country that routinely circumcises male babies.  Teach your boys to wear a condom, instill in them good judgement, and leave their penises alone.

  • Intact penises are dirty and difficult to care for:  A foreskin doesn't separate from the head of the penis until adolescence, sometime between 5 and 15 years of age.  Until this separation occurs, you only need to clean the outside of the penis.  You clean it just as you would any other part of your body.  In fact, a circumcised penis is more difficult to clean and care for during diapering.

  • Originally, the goal of circumcision was to desensitize the penis to curb masturbation. Dr. Kellogg, inventor of the corn flakes, was a major promoter of the procedure.
  •  A Jewish film maker took a deeper look into circumcision with the film, Cut.

  • Circumcision is not routinely practiced in most countries.  In fact, The United States is the ONLY country where circumcision is done routinely for non-religious reasons. Other than it being a Muslim and Jewish cultural practice, it is a very American practice.  More than 80% of the world's men are intact, with roughly 60% of Americans being circumcised.

The Bottom Line
CIRCUMCISION IS A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE.  It's unethical. After reviewing 40 years of research, it has been determined by the American Academy of Pediatrics that circumcision has no medical benefit.  It is not your penis, it is not your right.  You would certainly scuff if someone wanted to cut a baby girl's genitalia.  People talk all the time of female genital mutilation and how appalling it is.  How is cutting off a baby boy's foreskin any different? It's still mutilation and it has no purpose.

If you were to strap down an intact adult male and cut the foreskin of his penis off against his will, we would all it torture.  We would be appalled and call it inhumane.  We'd be protesting in the streets.  So why is it acceptable to do this to an infant who can't speak up? Every single circumcision, 100%,  is done without the consent of the person it will impact forever. 

It's not your penis, it's not your choice to make, plain and simple.

Any parent who is considering circumcision should at least watch the procedure in full.  If a baby is going to undergo circumcision, the parents should have an idea of what it entails.  Below is a video of an infant circumcision.  It is important to watch the video with the sound turned up.  I warn you, the content in the video is graphic and extremely difficult to watch.  After over 2 years of researching circumcision for my family, I have just finally been able to get through the entire procedure. If you are asking your baby to go through this, shouldn't you, at least, be able to sit through it too?

Do you want to continue researching circumcision?  Here is a list of accurate resources:
What does Dr. Sears say?


  1. Love this! It is clear, concise, non-emotional and honest. Thank you!

  2. Thank you for sharing what more parents to be NEED to know about.

  3. Thank you for sharing this much needed information and perspective. I'm bookmarking this page for use in future debate and in discussion with other parents.

  4. Thank you, my son is uncut (I am cut and it is the one decision that my parents ever made that I resented once I learned about it) and I always took the position that if he wanted it cut once he was old enough to decide, I would pay for it, without hesitation. Well, he's old enough, and he concluded that he loved his penis, he's keeping it the way it is.

  5. Back in 1979 during a psychiatry course I was taking, they mentioned a case where a newborn had an accidental penectomy during a botched circumcision. After consulting with the parents it was decided to "finish the job" and they completed sexual reasignment surgery to make a perfectly healthy newborn boy a girl.

    My heart goes out to that child and its parents.


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