31 August 2011

Circumcision: A few facts

Since finding out I was having a boy, one of the things that my husband and I thoroughly researched was the topic of circumcision. Was there really any reason to do it? Would there be any benefit to him going through that pain? What exactly does a circumcision remove? If we don't circumcise, how do we keep him clean?

For starters, I will point out, for those just learning about circumcision, throughout my blog, I will be using "intact" and "whole" to refer to a boy who is not circumcised. The term "uncircumcised" implies that circumcision is what is normal. An intact boy is no more uncircumcised than someone with all of their limbs is unamputated.

I did exhaustive research. I pulled studies and articles regarding urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and hygiene. I looked up rates of circumcision in our area, in our country, and around the world. I even asked my husband his feelings and thoughts regarding the old "locker room argument" (that an intact boy is highly likely to get relentlessly teased for being different), and my question essentially got laughed at and I was told that a guy who admitted to "noticing another guy's junk" was likely to get ridiculed. Also, we discussed that kids will be cruel, and if they want to pick on someone, they will find SOMETHING to pick on them about, regardless.
What I found out surprised me. And the more I researched it, the more strongly I have become opposed to Routine Infant Circumcision (RIC).

As I'm posting from work, I can't link gather to share many of the most informative posts that I have found from the Peaceful Parenting Blog, as some of them have some pictures that rather explicitly show the difference between an intact and circumcised penis, as well as showing what actually occurs during a circumcision.

  • Cleaning an intact boy is easier than cleaning a circumcised boy. You don't have to care for a healing wound that is sitting in a diaper, and you do not retract an intact infant, whereas with a circumcised infant, you often have to retract the remainder of the prepuce (foreskin) regularly to prevent adhesions.
  • Up to 96% of infant circumcisions in the United States and Canada no anesthetic is given. And often, when anesthetic is used, it is often only minimally effective, or is specifically contraindicated for use on infants and/or for circumcisions. Infant Circumcision with Anesthesia Article on TheWholeNetworkCircumcision Study Halted Due to Trauma 
  • The circumcision procedure is especially violent on an infant or child. At birth, the prepuce is not retractable, but is fused to the head of the glans. The age at which a child can retract varies widely, and may not happen until puberty. Prior to this, a circumcision requires not only the excision of the prepuce, but also requires ripping the prepuce away from the glans.
  • Studies on UTI rates fail to specify whether the intact infants were being retracted. In a culture where doctors will try to retract an intact infant and will tell parents that they should be doing this regularly to clean out things that "get caught" in the prepuce, chances are good that at least some of these infants were not being properly cleaned (again, "proper cleaning" means leave it alone; "only clean what is seen", "When intact, do not retract").
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that "Some forms of [Female Genital Cutting] are less extensive than the newborn male circumcision commonly performed in the West.", but they still waver over taking a stand against male circumcision, taking an on the fence stance, stating "Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision." as of their official statement in 1999, which was reaffirmed in 2005. It's significant to note that despite it being an exceedingly common practice, the AAP doesn't even outright endorse the procedure.
  • 20 out of of 100,157 (0.02%) circumcised boys got UTIs, compared with 88 out of 35,929 (0.244%) intact boys. If circumcising the 35,929 boys would have reduced the incidence from 0.244% to 0.02% (7 boys), the Number Needed to Treat is 35,929/(88-7) = 444 circumcisions to prevent one UTI. Circumcision and Urinary Tract Infections, Circumstitions.com
  • 100-200 baby boys die annually from circumcision and this practice continues. Yet, when 30 infants die over the span of 10 years, all drop-side cribs are recalled. The Guggie Daily: How many Babies Must Die from Circumcision?
  • Is Religion a reason? There is an increasing Jewish movement against circumcision, replacing the ceremony with the naming ceremony used for infant girls (Beyond the Bris). As for Christians, the New Testament actually has several passages that indicate that the circumcision covenant is no longer required (Circumcision and the Christian Parent; NOHARMM).
  • Female Circumcision (FC) was outlawed in the U.S. in 1996. Prior to this, it was legal for infant girls to be circumcised, even if it wasn't commonplace. People would balk at the idea of allowing FC to be a routine practice, even though, as already mentioned above, even the AAP recognizes that there are forms of FC that are less severe than the Male Circumcision that we practice here in the U.S. The law doesn't give religous or cultural exemption. In fact, in 2010, the AAP recommended allowing a "ritual pinprick" in lieu of FC in an attempt to prevent families from taking their daughters overseas to be circumcised, and there was an outcry that caused them to quickly backpedal on this suggestion.
This is just a start of some of the double standards and misinformation that I uncovered regarding circumcision.

Although I had intended on writing about birth resources and my own birth experience after my pregnancy post, the news about the circumcision debate/law in California has got this at the forefront of my mind. When I have a bit more time, I'll write more about San Francisco, the State of California, and circumcision law.

No comments:

Post a Comment