Having found out that my wife is carrying a boy this week has left us with two issues. The first is the name, we had a girl’s name picked out but a boy’s name has us stumped. The second issue that I want to talk about in this post is circumcision.
What is Circumcision?
Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the penis, predominately performed on new born males but it can be performed on a male of any age.
How are Circumcisions performed?
First, the amount of foreskin to be removed is estimated. The practitioner opens the foreskin via the preputial orifice to reveal the glans underneath and ensures it is normal before bluntly separating the inner lining of the foreskin (preputial epithelium) from its attachment to the glans. The practitioner then places the circumcision device (this sometimes requires a dorsal slit), which remains until blood flow has stopped. Finally, the foreskin is amputated.
– Source: WikiPedia
Why do people Circumcise boys?
It is mostly associated with religious observance with Jews and Muslims doing it the most. It was also thought to improve the cleanliness of the penis. Some people thought that by removing the foreskin that bacteria and things would not get stuck in it and cause infections. Other people do it for aesthetic reasons.
There has been some research that points towards the removal of the foreskin leading to a reduced risk of penile cancer, however given that the odds of penile cancer is 1 in 100,000, that reduction is not altogether huge. Others also suggest it reduces the chance of cervical cancer in partners of circumcised men.
Other research has suggested that not having a foreskin can reduce the infection rates for STIs like HPV and herpes due to thicker membranes on the penis. This advantage is negated by the proper use of condoms.
Phimosis is a condition when you can’t pull your foreskin back over the head of the penis. This is one of the most common causes of circumcisions in older males.
How many are Circumcised?
According to WikiPedia, “approximately one third of males worldwide are circumcised, most often for religious or cultural reasons”. The rate of circumcision has changed recently, when I was born it was something like 70% of boys were circumcised, more recent numbers I’ve Googled show it is now closer to 16% of new borns are circumcised. So whilst it was popular in the 70s and 80s, the popularity of the practice has reduced recently. This is likely due to a combination of greater access to educational information, more discussions, the fact that public hospitals in New South Wales no longer perform circumcisions and Medicare doesn’t cover it, and also it is a trend thing.
Am I going to Circumcise my Son?
This is an interesting question. Years ago if you had of asked me it would have been “yes”. I am circumcised therefore it made sense that I would circumcise my son. Fast forward to last Tuesday and we go for the 19 week scan to see penis, right up in our grill. There was no doubt at all that it was a boy. Shortly after leaving the question came up and I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking it over.
Medically speaking there is no reason to circumcise a newborn unless we find a problem at birth. There are various studies that show both uncircumcised and circumcised penises are healthier but overall, the very slight probability of benefits of circumcision don’t outweigh the slight probability of complications from the circumcision itself.
There is also the issue of modifying someone’s body without their consent. Whilst most people who have been circumcised just accept the fact that it happened and get on with it, there are some who dislike the fact and there are a multitude of quack doctors trying to sell procedures to “regrow” your foreskin. Most of them involve clipping weights to the skin below the head of the penis and using gravity to stretch it back over the head.
Throughout various discussions with people that I know that have had kids recently, the general consensus was to not do it. A couple did want to do it for reasons ranging from perceived cleanliness benefits to religious reasons. So far no one has actually circumcised their child due to everyone having girls except for one who was unable to find someone to do the circumcision.
I’ve come to the realisation that the only reason that I can come up with currently for circumcising my son is purely aesthetics. I am circumcised, have been all my life. I’ve seen the occasional uncircumcised penis in the change rooms or online and because it is different to my own I thought it didn’t look as good. Basing a decision that will affect someone for the rest of his life based on what I think looks better is not a valid reason.
Ultimately it has been decided that circumcision should only be done when it is medically required. He’ll still have the ability to choose it for himself in the future but it is not something that we’ll be deciding for him.