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Weighing In on Newborn Circumcision

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Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement on circumcision that concluded that the benefits are not significant enough to recommend newborn circumcision as a routine procedure. The AAP believes parents should be provided with accurate and unbiased information regarding both the risks and benefits of circumcision when making a decision regarding their baby.

So why perform circumcisions at all? Barrows says even if circumcision is not immediately medically beneficial for newborns due to illness or bleeding risk, the long-term medical benefits of the procedure do support its use in most cases. "Most medical people agree that circumcision is worthwhile. ... When you go back to the original data, the risk of cancer [and infection] ... is clearly lower in circumcised men," he says. "[The] long-term benefits are more clear," he adds. "We do a lot of things for our children. Childhood vaccinations is an example; fluoride in water is another. So is circumcision."

Barrows advises parents and their health care providers to discuss prior to the delivery whether to perform a circumcision on a male infant. This discussion should involve conversation about reducing pain to the newborn, aftercare, possible complications, benefits, and costs.

Vital Information:

  • Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis, and the decision to have a child circumcised is usually based on religious or cultural preferences.
  • A new study shows that complications from circumcision occur in 1 out of every 476 cases and can include bleeding and infection.
  • The long-term benefits of circumcision include a lower risk of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases, but quantifying how much lower is still a matter of debate.
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