Circumcising Your Son: It’s Your Choice

Circumcision is a private, family decision

infant boy wrapped in blankets

Circumcising newborn boys has health benefits that make the procedure worthwhile, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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The Academy’s new policy, issued in August, is based on evidence that circumcised males are less likely to get urinary tract infections, penile cancer and some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The 2012 policy makes a stronger case for circumcision than the Academy’s former policy, issued in 1999, that referenced only “potential” health benefits. 

But the Academy still refrains from recommending the procedure for all baby boys — acknowledging that there are risks and that circumcision is a private, family decision.

“Ultimately, it is up to parents to decide whether or not to circumcise their sons,” says Audrey Rhee, MD, pediatric urologist at Cleveland Clinic. “Parents need to weigh the benefits of the procedure with the risks.”

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Along with religious, ethical and cultural beliefs, parents should consider:

  • Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin at the tip of the penis. It’s usually done by an obstetrician or pediatrician before a newborn boy leaves the hospital. Although anesthetics are used, the procedure can cause discomfort as the patient heals.
  • In sterile environments, complications are rare — especially for infants. However, as with any surgical procedure, risks include bleeding and infection. Rarely does circumcision cause penile injury. There is no evidence that circumcision affects sexual function or performance.
  • Circumcision is not essential for your child’s hygiene. However, by removing the foreskin, germs can no longer grow under it, making it easier to keep the penis clean.
  • Circumcision is not essential for your child to be healthy. However, circumcised men have lower risk of urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and penile cancer.
  • Slightly more than half of American males get circumcised, although the percentage has been declining gradually.

“Your doctor can explain more about the procedure and how it is performed,” says Dr. Rhee. “It is important to talk with your doctor regarding your questions, concerns and preferences so you can make an informed decision about circumcision before your baby is born.”