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The Circumcision Decision

It may surprise many parents who are deliberating whether to circumcise their newborn son that the choice is really a family decision, not a medical decision.

Approximately two-thirds of boys in the United States are circumcised, with the number varying within certain religious and ethnic groups, from those in which all boys are circumcised to others in which it's rarely done. But for many, the decision is a personal choice. So how do you choose?

There are some potential medical benefits of circumcision in terms of a slightly lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in little boys, certain sexually transmitted infections in men, and penile cancer. However, all of these problems are uncommon (for example, only about 1% of all boys will have a UTI), so lowering the risk of an uncommon problem isn't a huge benefit.

Additionally, an uncircumcised penis is easy to care for and keep clean, so improved hygiene is not a reason for routine circumcisions, either.

Is Circumcision Right for Your Son?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your feelings about circumcision in general?
  • Is the baby's father circumcised or not? Do you think it will matter if his penis looks the same or different than that of his male role models?
  • Are there cultural or religious reasons to have your child circumcised (or not) that are important to you and your family?
  • Finally, after all is said and done, what does your heart tell you is the right thing to do?


If You Choose Circumcision

  • The sooner it is performed, the better.
  • Make sure it is performed by an experienced professional. In some areas, an obstetrician does it in the hospital. In others, pediatricians do it. (And some religious groups have the circumcision done later as part of a meaningful ceremony, either by a specially trained non-physician or a physician.)
  • Ask the following questions before the procedure:
    • How and when is circumcision done?
    • What are the potential risks of circumcision and how often do they occur?
    • What is entailed in caring for the recently circumcised penis?
  • Dealing with your son's pain.
    • Circumcision hurts! There's no way around that, except to take comfort in babies' very short memories.
    • Many hospitals now perform circumcisions with local anesthesia. Ask if that will be done and, if not, why not. The hospital may also give acetaminophen for 24 hours after the procedure.
    • At the very least, you can let your infant suck on sugar during the circumcision procedure to try to lessen the pain.


Remember that there is no right or wrong way to go with this decision. Weigh all the factors involved and trust your heart to make the right decision. Your little boy will do just fine either way.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 01, 2012

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