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Health & Baby

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U.S. Circumcision Rates Drop by 10 Percent: CDC

Whether male babies undergo procedure has become a personal decision between families and their doctors, experts say


These days, doctors are giving more "family-centered" care and shared decision making, he said. "I think that's a healthy way of practicing medicine," McInerny said.

"In addition, there are a significant number of people who feel circumcision is unnatural," he said.

McInerny noted that the procedure does have a slight risk of excessive bleeding and infection. During the procedure infants can feel some pain, but doctors use Novocaine to reduce the pain, he said.

"The benefit of circumcision outweighs the very small risk, and therefore it is recommended, but it is not strongly recommended," McInerny explained.

McInerny said circumcision is more common in the United States than it is in Europe. "I am not sure why that is," he added. The reasons may be religious and cultural, he suggested.

Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, chairman of pediatrics at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, said that whether to circumcise an infant is really not a medical decision.

"It may well be there is an increase in the number of religious groups that believe in circumcision and when done in a religious fashion it is not necessarily done in the hospital," he said. "So there might not be the decrease the researchers suggest."

For Jews and Muslims it's a religious decision, not a medical one. "It's a personal decision and has moved outside the medical world," Bromberg said.

In addition to the national trend, changes in the circumcision rate reflect regional differences across the nation.

In the Northeast, the trend remained flat over the 32 years, with no evident pattern, the investigators found. Annual circumcision rates, however, did vary from nearly 70 percent in 1994 to about 61 percent in 2007.

In the Midwest, changes in rates mirrored the national trend. Circumcisions declined until the mid-1980s, increased until 1998, and then declined through 2010. Rates ranged from about 83 percent in 1998 to roughly 69 percent in 2009, the researchers found.

In the South, rates increased from 1979 until 1998, then declined, ranging between about 54 percent in 1988 to 66 percent in 1995.

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