Experts Discourage use of Circumcision

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement yesterday declaring that routine male neonatal circumci­sion is unwarranted by scientific evidence.  The new policy overturned a 1989 AAP statement, which concluded that circumcision had both risks and benefits.  In contrast to the previous statement, the current task force found that, "Existing scientific evidence demon­strates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision." And, the task force stressed that any benefits of the surgery-are minor."

However, the experts noted that, "it is legitimate for parents to take into account cultural, religious, and ethnic traditions, in addition to medical factors, when making this decision.' The study's authors also sited evidence indicating that infants undergoing circumcision experience pain.  Consequently, the statement recommended anal­gesic use during the procedure.

Task Force on Circumcision.  Circumcision policy statement   Pediatrics 1999;   103 (3):   686-693

Note: For more information related to this topic, contact: Chiropractic Circumcision Information Resource Center (CC/RC) 405 SE Delaware #208,Ankeny, IA 50021

Web Sites of Interest

Information for Parents
Frequently Asked Questions about Infant Circumcision
Circumcision Resource Center
Mothers Against Circumcision
National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers
Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Circumcision Reference Library
Jewish Associates of CRC

Circumcision Articles

The Case Against Circumcision

In one of our most-requested articles, Mothering explores why circumcision is hardly ever necessary, and how parents can empower themselves to avoid ceding to the "claims" of the billion-dollar-a-year circumcision industry.

Paul M. Fleiss, MD   The Case Against Circumcision   Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living, Winter 1997, pp. 36-45

Protect Your Uncircumcised Son: Expert Medical Advice for Parents

Increasing numbers of American parents today are protecting their sons from routine circumcision at birth, but as their boys grow up, they often find themselves at odds with doctors who cling to old-fashioned opinions and hospital routines.

Paul M. Fleiss, MD   Protect Your Uncircumcised Son   Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living

If you ask an obstetrician why male babies are routinely circumcised in Western hospitals, he will probably give you one of 10 standard answers.

1. Removing the penile foreskin guards against urinary tract infection

There is no evidence that this claim is true. There is, however, significant evidence that the hospital setting for birth, particularly the newborn nursery, is responsible for a significant increase in the rate of infant urinary tract infection. Babies (of either sex) born in the hospital and taken to the newborn nursery are at much greater risk of urinary tract infection from stray bacteria than are home-birthed infants. (See Reason #71, "You don't want your baby exposed to hospital germs.")

2. An intact foreskin makes proper cleaning of the penis difficult

If hygiene were really the concern, obstetricians would also cut off your baby's ears and toes at birth. Since obstetricians don't do that, we know that cleanliness is not the issue. Further, a girl's genitals are far more difficult to keep clean than a boy's, and we don't see clitoral circumcision gaining acceptance in Western hospitals. Obviously there is another reason besides concern over "cleanliness" that compels obstetricians to cut off the most sensitive tissue on your baby boy's body, often without anesthesia and in some cases without informing you beforehand.

3. An intact foreskin increases the risk of cancer

There is no evidence that this claim is true.

4. Men who remain intact may give their wives vaginal disorders

There is no evidence that this claim is true. In fact, the foreskin protects the vagina from frictional irritation during intercourse

5. An intact boy may be confused by the difference between his penis and his circumcised father's penis, and he may suffer psychological problems as a result

There is no evidence that this claim is true.

6. Circumcision guards against contracting sexually transmitted diseases

There is no evidence that this claim is true. Contrary to popular belief, circumcising male infants does not reduce their risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, a benefit that physicians have long been associated with the practice. In fact, circumcised men were found to be slightly more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease in a study of 1,410 American men. While none of the intact men in this study ever had chlamydia, for instance, 26 of the circumcised men had contracted the disease.

7. Circumcision guards against herpes

There is no evidence that this claim is true.

8. Circumcision guards against AIDS

There is no evidence that this claim is true.

9. Circumcision reduces the risk of "sexual perversion."

Although circumcision has been performed for religious reasons for centuries, the practice became widespread in the 1870s when physicians thought it would limit sexual practices such as masturbation and oral sex. But studies show that men who have been circumcised are more likely to engage in varied sexual practices. One study shows that circumcised men are 40 percent more likely than non-circumcised men to masturbate at least once a month. They are also more likely to have had homosexual oral sex and heterosexual anal intercourse.

10. That's just the way it is

Interestingly, this answer, while devoid of scientific information or expert analysis of any kind -- analysis that one might expect from a graduate of years of medical schooling -- is the best answer your obstetrician can give. That is, it's the best for him. Since no scientific studies support circumcision, and since evidence clearly shows that there is no medical or health benefit derived from circumcision, obstetricians have at least a vague understanding that linking circumcision with medicine is to perpetrate fraud. "That's just the way it is" is your obstetrician's best answer to the question, "Why circumcise?" because it's an answer that he rightly sees as the easiest way around the briar patch of parental questioning on this thorny subject. The subtext of "That's just the way it is" is, "Stop asking me questions."

Of course, although obstetricians are loathe to think about, or speak the truth about, the issue of circumcision, childbirth educators, midwives and doulas cannot be so squeamish. Circumcision rates for male newborns are currently at 60 percent in U.S. hospitals--an unconscionably high rate.

-Jock Doubleday
Director Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc.
A California nonprofit corporation