Disclaimer: We are not medical professionals. The best thing to do before any medical procedure is to consult with your doctor.
Circumcision is defined as the surgical removal of the foreskin. It is the most common elective surgery in people with penises in America. However, there are many misconceptions about the pros and cons of the procedure, and whether the procedure is necessary or not is strongly debated.
The time period in which a circumcision occurs is varied. They are most commonly performed on the first or second day after birth. However, among Jewish populations it is done on the eighth day, and in Muslim populations the timing can happen in late childhood or early adolescence. The one thing that is true across the board is that the procedure becomes more complicated and riskier the older the patient is.
The following are benefits of circumcision:
- decreases risk of urinary tract infections in infancy especially in the first year
- likely decreases of penile cancer, though this cancer is rare and becoming rarer for reasons that appear to be unrelated to circumcision
- decreases risk of some sexually transmitted infections, including female-to-male transmission of HIV
- decreases risk of cervical cancer and some infections in female partners
- makes it easier to maintain good genital hygiene
The following are risks associated with the procedure:
- Risk of bleeding and infections at the site of the circumcision
- Irritation of the glans
- Higher chance of Meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis)
- Risk of injury and scarring to the penis
- may be seen as disfigurement by some
- may cause rare complications, including cutting the foreskin too long or too short, poor healing, bleeding, or infection
There are persistent rumors that a circumcised penis is less sensitive to stimulation, but studies have shown that that is not the case.
When is circumcision recommended?
There are certain medical conditions or circumstances where circumcision is recommended or can become inevitable. These include prevents Balanitis (pain and inflammation of the glans), Balanoposthitis (inflammation of the foreskin), Paraphimosis (the foreskin becomes trapped behind the corona and forms a tight band of constricting tissue), Phimosis (a condition where the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the head of the penis) and a few others.
When is circumcision not recommended?
There are rare medical conditions where the procedure is not recommended. If the child is born with Hypospadias (a rare condition in which the urethral opening is on the underside of the penis) a urologist will need that foreskin to elongate the urethra and put it in the proper place. There is an even rarer condition called Epispadias, where the urethra opens on the top of the penis. Penises with Hypospadias and Epispadias often will look like they are “naturally circumcised,” with no foreskin. A full evaluation by a urologist is necessary to diagnose either condition and recommend treatment.
Is circumcision necessary?
This topic is still debated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states the following about the health benefits of newborn male circumcision:
“Evaluation of current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks and that the procedure’s benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it. Specific benefits identified included prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has endorsed this statement.”
The procedure is well tolerated when performed by trained professionals under sterile conditions with appropriate pain management. Complications are infrequent; most are minor, and severe complications are rare. Male circumcision performed during the newborn period has considerably lower complication rates than when performed later in life.
However, the health benefits are not great enough to recommend the procedure for all male newborns.
Many American families choose the procedure for religious reasons or reasons of tradition. Parents ultimately should decide whether circumcision is in the best interests of their child.
The AAP says that the benefits or circumcision outweigh the risks but do not recommend the procedure for all newborns. Parents should consult a pediatrician (or urologist) and decide carefully if circumcision is the right thing for their child.