Circumcise Baby or Not?

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Circumcision and Cervical Cancer

May 2002

I know the controversial topic of whether to have a son circumcised has been discussed frequently, and I have read the very helpful archives. However, I have been reading about a recent study showing that the partners of uncircumcised men are more likely to develop cervical cancer than the partners of circumcised men. I had previously decided not to circumcise my soon-to-be born child if it is a boy, but am not sure what to do in the face of this new study. I don't want to reopen the whole question of circumcision, since I think the discussions in the archives are very comprehensive, but I am interested in what people think of this new study. Thanks. CJ

I, too, read that article. It said that Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which is the STD that can lead to cervical cancer, can be carried more often by uncircumsized men than circumsized. As far as I can tell, if you can teach your son to be an thorough foreskin cleaner, if you teach him to respect his body and his parnters' by wearing condoms, HPV shouldn't be a concern and leaving him intact until he can make his own decisions about his genitalia, his body and his health is the best way to go. Nora

My recollection of the study is that it reports an increased risk of cervical cancer for women whose partners are uncircumcised AND have had several sexual partners. This finding does not make me regret my decision to leave my son uncircumcised. It does, however, make it more important to teach him about responsible behavior. Anonymous

Although I can't recall much of the literature on this topic, which I looked over a bit when my son was born, I wouldn't be too concerned about any possible connection between circumcision and cervical cancer. Cervical cancer generally has a very long pre-cancerous phase (estimates are in the neighborhood of 10 years or longer), during which it is readily detectable through Pap smear and easily cured. (As I write this I realize that this applies mainly to the most common kind of cervical cancer, squamous cancer; the adequacy of the Pap smear for detecting some other types has not been well established. So if this recent study you mentioned deals with adenocarcinoma or other variants, this argument is less relevant.)

BTW, it seems very likely that cervical cancer is somehow caused by (sexually-transmitted) infection with certain strains of the human papilloma virus, and there are new methods being adopted which check for the presence of those strains, so in the future Pap testing should be even more successful at finding pre-cancerous conditions than it is now. Kathy

I have done research on the subject and the study noted that there was only a slight difference and that the men studied have had about 6 parters or more. I feel that education rather than circumsicion is the key. mary

My husband is intact, as are all of his male relatives on his father's side going back at least three generations. Postscript: He comes from a highly educated family made up mostly of doctors, scientists and college professors. Needless to say our son is an intact male as well. Years ago I recall talk of some research linking the uncircumcised penis with cervical cancer. I honestly am not familiar with any recent report, but I am aware that this older report was highly flawed due to the fact that the test participants were all female prostitutes! Hugh Grant notwithstanding, intelligence and cleanliness are not two adjectives I would associate with men who solicit the services of a prostitute. All kidding aside, my husband was taught how to clean his penis when he was old enough to learn how. Along with this he was taught other personal hygienic responsibilities such as brushing and flossing his teeth. When someone starts a discussion that is pro-circumcision based on reasons involving personal hygiene, and avoiding potential infection, I always like to comment that in keeping with that train of thought, perhaps we should pull out all of our kid's adult teeth as they erupt. This way if by chance we happen to raise a child that is incompetent when it comes to taking care of their body, at least we have relieved them of future potential genital infections and/or dental cavities. Both these conclusions make about the same amount of sense to me, which is none.
Name withheld to protect the anonymity of my husband's penis

Undecided whether to have our son circumcised

My husband and I are undecided about whether to have our son circumcised after he is born. Although we are leaning towards having it done, we do not feel political about it. Basically, we want to make the best decision for him for when he is growing up. I have a call in to my doctor to find out if he has circumcision statistics on what the trend is these days, but maybe someone else also does which is why I'm writing. It would be interesting to find out if, for example, 50% of boys are getting circumcised and the other 50% are not, at least in California. We don't want him to feel too different from most of his peers while growing up, especially during those difficult teen years. Thanks. angela

I saw a book at the Lawrence Hall of Science Gift Shop of information for boys about puberty; it had a very reasoned section about circumcision, and gave exactly the statistics that you asked for. I don't remember the title, but the Shop clerk could no doubt direct you to it. Brian

Initially, we decided against circumcision because we didn't want him to go through all that pain just so he could look like his daddy. Our decision to have my son circumsised was finally based on the fact that they no longer do the procedure w/o anesthesia. In fact, he cried more when he got his vaccination than he did for the circumcision. We know it was simply cosmetic and maybe it was a cop out but it's also one less thing for him to worry about as being different. The fact that it's so often a subject of conversation leads me to believe that by the time my 2 yr old is old enough to notice the difference, there will be a balance of both types (50-50? 60-40?) so that it won't be an issue. MW

My husband & I decided not to circumcise our son. I am Jewish & my husband is not, tho he is circumcised himself. I have had regrets about not having it done, but my husband feels comfortable that we made the right decision. I had no idea that I would feel this way about the whole situation since my family is reform and I grew up with very little of the tradition. Part of my feeling badly about it is my own family stuff and not wanting to feel criticized by various people in my family, and it has been good for me to figure out how to separate out what is that stuff vs. what felt right to do for our son at the time. I've been trying to let go of feeling badly because I don't want my son to feel awkward about it. He's only 16 months now, but I do worry that even tho it is probably 50/50 in the Bay Area, we may not always live here. I'm not advocating that everyone do it, but I will say that as best you can try to figure out how you may feel about it late! r ! ! on. And once you make a decision, do not listen to what anyone else has to say on the subject! Lise

When we chose not to have our son circumcised, the fear of him appearing different was the only nagging concern. However, I quickly learned from preschool and now Berkeley public school observation (via my son), Bay Area children seem to half and half. There has been new talk of hygienic reasons for the procedure, but we are pleased with the decision. Boys can learn to keep clean and I feel better knowing that I did not cut nerves away that may bring him a great deal of pleasure in his adult life. His father is circumsized, but my son already knows that his penis will never look just like Daddy's, but it is perfect the way he is. Good luck with whatever you choose. Bennett

Yes, this is a very hot topic. I don't know any statistics. Being Jewish, both of my boys were circumcised. What I would like to pass on is, a few years ago I was reading through a medical journal for something else and came across an article that stated that in America, of the number of males with penile cancer, a very high percentage were not circumcised. This was about 10 years ago or so. It might be a good idea to do some research on the current health benefits in addition to your concern about the sameness and difference (assuming you have no religious reasons for circumcision). June

I read the results of a research study a few years ago, by a guy who was decidedly anti-circumcision when he started his study. It was basically about transmission of HIV and other STDs in Africa and how it relates to circumcision. It was a fascinating study, which unfortunately I don't remember the name of or the name of the author, but he basically found that hands down more men were contracting AIDs and were HIV positive in places where men were traditionally uncircumcised (and of course, where sexual practices were pretty loose). He compared that with rates in another country (Phillipines? or maybe it was two countries in Africa) where men are traditionally circumcised but sexual practices were very similar. He found that transmission rates were significantly lower. Plus there were other kinds of health problems that the uncircumcised men had that the circumcised men didn't have as much of (statistically speaking). The author said he wished he had circumcised his son. Although I don't have to face this decision, I feel very confident what mine would be, based on this study. I otherwise would have had no opinions. janet

Wow. I'm sure you'll get a million responses on this topic. We decided to have our son (now 13 months old) circumcised, and it was a pretty painless thing. He cried about the anesthesia injection but not the procedure itself and he recovered very quickly with just Tylenol for a couple of days. Based on our experience it seems like a pretty low risk, low trauma thing.

Having said that, I wont go as far as to say I regret it but I certainly have had second thoughts. I think just about the only arguable defense (which came into play in our situation) is the baby-like-daddy argument. I have no complaints about the results worked out for me (not that *I* had a choice), but hey - how would I know anyway? I have nothing to compare it to.

I think at this point, there is almost no evidence that would give credence to the usual medical arguments for doing it.

There was an interesting guest on Fresh Air (on NPR) who wrote a book about circumcision. His name was David Gollaher and his book is called A History of the World\x92s Most Controversial Surgery. It may be worth checking out, though based on his discussion on the air, I doubt you will proceed with the procedure if you read it, so be prepared. You can also hear his interview at The interview was February 14th. (and, yes HE was circumcised too). Peter

A couple of weeks ago, Terri Gross had a wonderful discussion on Fresh Air with a guy who has recently written a book on circumcision. (I don't recall the title, but I'm sure that one could find it with little difficulty.) In the course of the conversation, Gross asked him how his own thinking on the topic had evolved in the course of researching and writing the book. He replied that he began his work with what he believed to be a fairly neutral position. In particular, he said, he felt that those outspoken opponents of circumcision who equated it with female genital mutilation were guilty of indulging a largely ideological agenda. But by the end of the the research and writing process, he said, he had arrived at much the same conclusion; and that except for parents who were motivated by religious conviction, he could find no others--parents, doctors, psychologists--who could present compelling arguments in support of the procedure.

He concluded by observing that the tide seemed to be running ever more strongly against circumcision, and that he thought that the generation of doctors now emerging from med school would be unlikely to recommend it.

(Actually, the interview concluded with the telling of two or three circumcision jokes, if you can imagine such a thing. I'll recount one here: a dry goods salesman, on his last day before retirement, was complaining to the buyer from Bloomingdale's that he had never been able to make a single sale to the store. Please give me just one order, he begged, so that I can retire fulfilled. OK, said the buyer. Send me enough satin ribbon to reach from the tip of your nose to the tip of your penis. The next day a truck rolled up to Bloomingdales and began to unload what turned out to be 8,000 miles of ribbon. The enraged buyer shouted over the phone to the salesman What are you doing! I told you to send me as much ribbon as would reach from the tip of your nose to the tip of your penis! Well, said the salesman, the tip of my nose is right here--and the tip of my penis is in Krakow!) Steven

I recently read a statistic which said that over 50% of boys born in the Western U.S. are uncircumcised. My guess is that in an area like Berkeley, the percentage may be even higher. I think the staistic was printed in the prenatal newsletter I received at my last visit to Kaiser, but I'm reading so much baby material right now that I could have my sources confused. On a more personal note, I have a three year old son who is not circumcised, and his brother, due in June, will be the same. My husband (who is circumcised) and I agreed that since we have no religious convictions regarding circumcision, we would just let things be. Part of our decision was that the hospital where I delivered was unwilling to use any sort of anisthetic, even topical. Since the research we had read indicated that there aren't any known health benefits to the procedure, we chose to avoid what we felt would amount to a traumatic procedure and a lot of intricate after-care of something about which we had no strong feelings. So far our son has not noticed any difference between himself and his father, and I have read that rates of circumcision are falling all over the country, so I expect that his classmates will be split pretty much fifty-fifty no matter where we live. I've also heard, though I can't attest to the fact, that uncircumscised men have more pleasure in intercourse, which, if true, is certainly something I'd like my son to enjoy someday.

My son, born in '99, is not circumcised. Although I'm Jewish, I was not raised with a strong religious connection. My husband is European, where the norm for his generation is non circumcision, so I let him decide. My husband's brother had to be circumcised at age 5 due to a serious infection he developed, and he was the odd one out, but apparently he suffered no locker room derision.

These aren't any official statistics, but if it helps to know, of all of the boys we personally know who were born in the last 4 years, the only ones who were circumsized were Jewish.

It's a tough question and you'll find that most people have strong opinions about it either way. I, myself, was more of a fence sitter (I'm female). In discussing this with a friend, I was asked how can I expect a male to be sensitive if he has been desensitized? Granted, there is no direct correlation between desensitizing a body part and desensitizing the whole human spirit.....but it was food for thought. I could not think of a compelling reason to do it, so I didn't. I am, however, respectful of those who do do it for strictly religious reasons. You'll find a good analysis and description in: Circumcision Exposed : Rethinking a Medical and Cultural Billy Ray Boyd. At Alta Bates I was told the rate was 50/50 these days. Good luck with your decision.

I had my newborn son circumcised just two weeks ago. I was ambivalent about doing this, but went ahead with it mostly for cultural and aesthetic reasons. I accompanied him during the surgery, because I feel we shouldn't do anything to our children we ourselves can't stand to witness. I also wanted to be there to hold him and nurse him as soon as the procedure was over.

I agree with others who have posted on this topic that my son seemed like he was in pain during the procedure--he screamed, he turned purple, he had a hard time settling down after it was over. I'm not entirely sure this was from pain, however. (The doctor did use a local anesthetic.) I think the trauma was as much from being naked, being strapped down, and having a shot (for pain killer) in the genital area. Since then, I have seen him get just as upset when he is a) hungry; b) trying to fall asleep and being overstimulated by his older sister; and c) having his diaper changed.

That said, I am still ambivalent about having done this. I think this is a very personal decision and one that merits much thought and consideration. I just don't want people to assume that because a newborn is screaming he's in terrible pain.

It seems to me that the tide is turning against circumcision these days, but your OB would know better. As an opponent of circumcision, I think it's unfortunate that people worry so much about whether the boy will look like his peers, or look like daddy; this just further perpetuates a procedure that probably shouldn't be performed as often as it is.

You'll get a lot of response about this, I reckon; I'll provide an argument that I don't hear repeated often. Removal of the foreskin desensitizes the penis. Because the sensitive glans (head) is constantly brushing up against clothing, etc, it becomes more callused and less responsive. (That foreskin has a function!) It's certainly hard to think of your as-yet-unborn child as a sexual being, but he will be someday...and you should think hard about the effect of this decision on his future sexual pleasure.

Your guess was correct, the rate in CA is about 50% circumcising vs. 50% not. The trend is moving (slowly) away from circumcision. Please consider the actual physical effects on your son, not only the will he fit in issues. I have never heard of boys in this generation having a problem with fitting in, due to this-- there are always examples of those with and without foreskins around them. My two sons were not cut, after much consideration and research and we're very happy to have them just as they were born. I would hope you'll think about the fact that once it's done it's done, and your child has no say in the matter. But it is something the older child or man can elect to do when able to make that choice himself, if you allow him the option. CK

We were lucky enough to deliver our boy in Europe where the question doesn't even come up routinely. When I asked the pediatrician, he asked if we were Jewish -- if not why did we even want to know? My son still believes that the physical difference relates to which continent you were on, and whether your religion requires. He has not showed his privates to a whole lot of other boys, but has never been made to feel different or wierd... and has had no medical problems related to not be circumcised.

From a strictly medical perspective, all the research I read suggested that the benefits of circumcision (decrease of UTI's and penile cancer, lower incidence of STDs) did NOT outweigh the risks (bleeding, infection, desensitization of the glans). Additionally, men who had to be circumcised later in life for medical reasons confirm the decrease in sensation of the glans. The AAP's current position is that circumcision is usually unnecessary (barring some family history that would warrant it) and the main reason to consider it is cultural.

Here's the link to the AAP's official position:

If you do decide to circumcise, please be sure that you use adequate amounts of analgesia. One thing pro- and con-circumcision people agree on is that it is an indisputably painful procedure for a newborn. Studies show that baby boys who are circumcised often show biological signs of distress immediately aftwerwards, and often are hypersensitive to pain (as in innoculations) long after the experience. Doctor friends of mine who witnessed or performed circumcision during their training report that it is a brutal procedure for a newborn, and, in their collective experience, adequate amounts of analgesia are not always used.

I have a comment about circumcision. I am a circumcised male of 51. I was circumcised at birth. All the boys were circumicised where i grew up, well not *all* exactly, one of my best friends wasn't, (he was a great guy, and one heck of a tailback, too) (still a great guy!:) Anyway, i never thought much of it at the time (childhood, until i was 39 years old), but i had sort of a birthmark on my exposed glans (you can look it up), and there was sort of this ache *there* i would notice sometimes (in high school i subscribed the ache to excessive masturbation - Portnoy had nothing on me:) But it wasn't like something serious enough to go to the doctor about. What i later learned was called a ghost pain, a mark of trauma. Then i came to Berkeley in 1983 to do primal therapy al a Artur Janov, at the Center Within on Adeline. Which i did do (primal that is) at least once a week for about 6 years. I got really inside my memories. I was like falling back into space sometimes. In conjunction with the primal therapy, i also was privileged to partake in a ***** rebirthing experience, where through various emotional and sensory inducements, the gestalt that holds the memory of a person's birth is stimulated, and the brain releases the memory for re-processing. That's the technical definition. Personally, it's so *weird*, (and it was different for every person in the room who did it with me - one at a time, of course), weird in that it was eerie, the echos of my life from that intense time of trauma (compare natural childbirth, aboriginal birthing, etc.), you know the LeBoyeh (sp?) book: Mother given drugs, labor halted until the doctor finishes his golf game (in recounting the experience to my mother, she filled in the missing pieces) (me however, expecting progress, in a pre-natal fashion -- which is to say sort of, what's the word?>, reptilian fashion, which is to say intense. I intently wanted to be born, The World yawned and said, when we're ready, pal, hold on to your foreskin. (a sorry pun:) And then of course the usual followed: hauled out, bright lights in the eyes (eyes that have been acclimated only to the most gentle of lights, the spirit aura of its mother), our connecting cord cut still pumping (that is a freaky feeling, remember?), yanked upside down, hit harshly, handled roughly, dried with a starched towel, and then 'cut'. No part of that was ok, the circumcision was not ok. No. It's not a nice thing to do. John

Five or six years ago, the statistic nationwide was about 50-50, and more like 65% uncircumcised in the Bay Area. What is not done can still be done, but what is done cannot be undone.

Here's a piece of advice if you decide not to circumcise: Our two sons (ages 41/2&6) were not circumcised. The only problem that we have encountered was the youngest got an infection under his foreskin when he was about 3 1/2. Early one evening he complained of pain when urinating and the tip of his penis appeared red. Since it was after hours we brought him to the urgent care clinic. The doctor prescribed anti-fungal cream which helped right away. Everything was back to normal in a day or two. The doctor also told us to have our boys retract their foreskins in the bathtub as part of their daily cleaning routine to keep the area clean and prevent future infections. This has been fairly simple for us to follow through once our sons understood what they needed to do (luckily our older son caught on right away and was able to demonstrate to our younger son what to do, since my husband is circumcised and he could be of no help there). Since this time we haven't had any further infections. The only thing that bothers me about this is that with all the routine well child checks that we've been to no one ever mentioned to us that cleaning under the foreskin was an important part of our sons' daily hygene routine. I'm not sure at what age it is recommended to begin this practice. But if you do decide not to circumcise then I'd recommend you consider asking your doctor for guidance on how/when to clean. Good luck. Donna

I am an uncircumcised 45 y.o. man. Not being circumcised has been ok except: To stay clean as a post teen you must clean twice a day or more. If you get any kind of abrasion at all it take a long time to heal as the glands are covered and do not have the air to dry and help heal. Any kind of abrasion or soap burn is a big deal. Also the biggest problem is with soap burns. You must rinse completely until all traces of soap are gone or you will get a soap burn and it will take weeks to heal. As a child the foreskin is tight and when it loosens the skin can break and infections can occur. Whether I look like some other man I could care less. If I had a son I probably would lean toward circumcision but that would be a decision me and my wife would make together.

An issue with the changing rate of circumcision these days (basically most kids are not, in my experience) is that they generally have circumcised fathers who don't know how to teach them to keep their penis clean. This only becomes an issue at about the age of five when the foreskin is less tightly attached (I believe?). I know of a couple of small boys, including my son, who got infections underneath there and had to have medicated cream and a clear explanation from the doctor on how to prevent that happening again. It's not something that has recurred now that he knows what to do, which includes retracting and cleaning under the foreskin. My son may have been more prone to it because his skin is sensitive to soap and we use it very rarely. My friend's doctor mentioned that he saw quite a few little boys for this reason - it's not a major issue, but worth forestalling if you can and/or keeping an eye out for it. His initia! l ! symptom was that it stung when he peed. My parents' old Dr Spock book has a hilarious description of how to do the penis cleaning with a newborn baby, (which is not necessary and possibly dangerous) but might be a guide for an older child. I've never seen such details mentioned in other childcare books, but have heard that the slightly higher rate of infections is the only measurable disadvantage of retaining a foreskin that's been found by researchers. As I said, some of this is probably due to fathers being different from their sons - a loss of folk knowledge about foreskins I suppose. Fiona

I'm another Jew who circumcised her son. I believed beforehand and I am even more convinced of it now: it is a terrible thing to do to a newborn -- to anyone who is not choosing it for their own reasons as an adult, or for medical reasons in later childhood. I truly cannot think of any reason to circumcise other than very strong religious/cultural situations (in our case, we assumed we'd spend considerable time in Israel, where an uncircumcised boy *would* have a seriously hard time. Now I'm not even sure we'll spend much time there at all!). Our son's circumcision was a horrendous experience, as well as the recovery from it. This despite the fact that we had a very wonderful mohel (Chanan feld, who was recommended here just recently). Each child reacts differently, so while by some testaments, some boys hardly notice the procedure, I would not take the chance that yours will have a bad reaction. I hope very dearly that Jewish practice will change over time to end circumcision.

We are parents expecting a boy in july, and are currently going through the same dilemma as to whether or not to have him circumcised. Our first impulse was not to, but after much research, we have decided that we probably will, for a number of reasons which haven't been mentioned here:
- Circumcised males have 10-fold fewer urinary tract infections. Up to 3% of uncircumcised boys will require hospitalization for pyelonephritis (a kidney infection).
- A lower rate of syphilis, genital herpes, genital warts, and AIDS in circumcised men has been reported in a number of studies.
- Males circumcised in the newborn period almost never develop cancer of the penis.
- Cancer of the cervix has been reported to be less common in the partners of circumcised men.
- Circumcision usually prevents phimosis - the inabililty to retract the foreskin.
- Circumcision reduces the incidence of balanoposthitis-infection or inflammation of the skin of the penis.
- Effective personal hygiene is easier with a circumcised penis.
- Many boys not circumcised at birth will require the procedure later, at greater cost and greater risk.
- And my last very unscientific reason is for the sake of our son's future sex life. An informal but extensive poll of female friends and relatives (including myself) prefer a circumcised penis in a sexual partner.

One of our main issues was that of pain - which our pediatrician will prevent with a lidocain block.

Hope this helps with what is certainly an important and personal decision. You will find much more information, both pro and con, on the web.

I just read the discussion on cleaning an uncircumcised penis and wanted to comment that my pediatrician has told me at every single visit the care of an uncircumcised penis is no care at all - i.e. DON'T retract the foreskin. This sounds like it contradicts some of the advice that is posted, which talks about being careful to pull back the foreskin and clean, rinse away soap etc. The contradiction may arise because my son is only 2 years old and his foreskin is still tight - the retraction advice may apply for later on. I will ask my doctor but in the meantime I wanted to caution readers that they probably shouldn't be pulling back infant foreskins or at least that they should check with their doctor before doing so. Fran

I found a great Web page link that talks about the care of uncircumsized penises. Hope this helps parents out there:,3435,1005,00.html Jeanne

Mothering Magazine had an excellent article in issue #103 (November/December 2000) entitled Protect Your Uncircumcised Son: Expert Medical Advice for Parents, by Paul M. Fleiss. The author discusses 18 different statements that are commonly used as an arugument against leaving the penis intact, from your son sprays when he urinates to your son won't enjoy oral sex. As the mother of an uncircumcised boy (and the wife of a circumsized man), I found the article to be extremely helpful, and at the very least it gave me a heads up for the kind of stuff people come up with to push a procedure that has been shown to be medically unnecessary. I can't imagine that teaching a boy to take care of his genitals is any more difficult than teaching a girl to wipe from front to back! Doctors sometimes give biased advice, even when we are relying upon them to give us correct information. So, if your doctor says something that doesn't make sense to you, check it out! You love your child enough to get the best information you can. Rachel

The issue of circumcision is of course a highly private matter and I have read the recent posts with interest and a high regard for individual preferences. Circumcision is a symbol of the covenant that the Jewish male baby enters into with God, family, community, history, culture. Who are we to break this chain? I am a mom of a son who had a bris on his eighth day of life, just like his father and grandfather and great-grandfather. While I would never wish unnecessary pain on my beloved child, it is my obligation as a Jewish woman and mother to practice the most basic tenants of my faith. And that covenantial relationship will be part of my child's whole precious lifetime. As so many other aspects of Judiasm get chipped away at through assimiliation, it is imperative that a few rituals remain. It is my hope for the Jewish community that the rite of circumcision will define us for another 5,000 years.

Stressing about whether to circumcise baby

I am pregnant now (for the first time) and I'm stressing out about the issue of circumcision. I basically think it's a barbaric practice, and that it should be stopped, but I'm worried that if I don't have my baby circumcised, he will be made fun of at school, will feel abnormal, or will have sexual hang-ups about it later. I've asked some male friends for their opinions, but as they were all circumcised themselves, they had a hard time envisioning what it might be like for an uncircumcised boy/man. Has anyone had any experiences/thoughts that will help me in my decision? Thanks.

I researched the issue for BabyCenter, the Web site I work for. I think we present both sides of the issue fairly well in our Great Debate. The information discusses the pros and cons and links you to a bulletin board where you can see people discussing this highly controversial issue. Click here:

I had the same thoughts and fears as you regarding circumcision - felt it was barbaric, but wanted to do the right thing long-term for my son. I'm usually very decisive but this particular issue really had me tied up in knots. After much agonizing and asking everyone I knew for their thoughts, which resulted in getting extremely conflicting advice ranging from you MUST do it (so the son can look like the father and for hygiene reasons) and you MUST not do it (it's barbaric, there are no valid health reasons for doing it) all I learned was that people feel VERY strongly about this issue. Then one of the instructors at my birthing class told me and my husband that she intended to circumcise her son but when faced with it at the hospital basically just chickened out. She said she's had no medical or hygiene problems with it (which confirmed my pediatrician's advice which was if you have no religious or cultural reason for doing it, leave well enough alone, and an uncircumcised penis requires no special care). As for the looking like his father issue, when her son was 5, he asked his dad why his penis looked different from his, and the father simply said, when I was a baby, they cut a little piece of it off at the hospital, and the boy just said Oh, I'm sorry, Dad! and that was that. After hearing that, my husband and I decided to just wait and see how we felt at the hospital. When the time came we willingly chickened out too and felt very good about it. (My husband, who'd been more in favor of circumcision than I, said he's perfect as-is.) I think there are going to be a lot of new millenium boys running around with their foreskins intact (in California, I think the current stats are something like 40% of babies are being circumcised, 60% aren't) so you don't need to worry that your son will be a freak. Good luck; it is a tough decision. If you can't make up your mind now, put it off until the birth and see how you feel then.

My son who is now almost 9 is not circumcised, it's never been an issue. Many of his peers are not either. My brother (38) and my nephews - (21, 15, 10, 8, and 6 years old) are all - not - and they have never had any issues, never been laughed at and that's a wide range of ages. We came as children from a country where circumcision is not and was never standard so it never even crossed our minds to have our children circumcised. We have been laughed at for our last name, freckles, mother's accent and many other things having nothing to do with anything cultural, just the fact that someone wanted to laugh at one of us. You can't avoid it. You shouldn't circumcise your son because he might get laughed at any more than you would scrape his freckles off if he should have any.

My husband is not circumcised and grew up in Northern California, and says that no one ever made fun of him about it. My 14-year-old cousin says the same. Neither of them seem to feel the least bit abnormal and in fact, there are a lot of uncircumcised men out there, although I agree that they are still much in the minority. With little boys these days, however, that may not be so true; in my mothers' group, for example, two of the little boys are circumcised and two are not. In our babysitting coop, I don't think any of the little boys are circumcised. While I do not think circumcision is at all barbaric - it's part of at least 2 major world religions, for example - neither do I think it's at all necessary. If my husband had felt it to be important, we would probably have circumcised our son, and I would feel fine about that decision, too. I really think people make much too much out of the to circumcise or not to circumcise question. My advice is to do what you want, and *relax.* You have more important stuff to stress out about.

My child is 4.5 years old and uncircumcised. He has had no medical issues nor problems with other kids, despite group bath rooming at his daycare. At first we thought we would have to do extra hygiene, but our doctor said that as long as they soak in a bath, nothing special needs to be done. By the time the skin had separated enough to clean, he was old enough (about 2.5 years) to clean it himself in the tub. This summer he's in camp with kids up to 15 years old and still not a mention of it. I don't think he knows that he's circumcised-- he hasn't even noticed that Dad is different. We've never mentioned it to him. (Perhaps it's time!) In Berkeley, there's so much diversity; across the nation fewer kids are getting circumcised. I don't think it will be a problem elsewhere either.

We chose not to circumcise our son who is now almost a year old and I have not once regretted it. However, I have friends with similar age sons who did circumcise and do regret it. Our pediatrician also told us that he regretted having circumcised his son. My husband was circumcised himself, but after reading as much as we could about the subject he had no questions as to what he felt was the right decision for our son. As more and more parents choose not to circumcise in the U.S., the concern about looking like your peers will fade -- and this change is in process. In fact, in you live in the Bay Area, not being circumcised is actually very common. Also, in most places in the world (though not in Israel, for example), the norm is to not be circumcised. Good luck with your decision!

We did not circumcise our son (who is now almost one year old). The only boys his age whom I've met have been circumcised only if they're Jewish. In this area, circumcision is pretty low compared to the rest of the U.S. My husband and I decided not to circumcise because there was no compelling reason to do so. My MIL told me that her first bad decision as a parent was circumcising my husband. If you don't want to do it, don't.

I don't know where the poster lives, but here in Berkeley boys who *are* circumsized are in the minority. We had our son circumsized and I don't think any of his friends are circumsized. The situation really is different here and now than it was thirty years ago.

About the circumcision issue: Your uncircumcised child will not feel different here in California --only 50% of boys are circumcised in this state. In other countries the rate is even lower and in other parts of the U.S. the rate of circumcision is dropping, albeit slowly. All of my reading showed that there is no medical reason for it, and a good argument against it was that the newborn child has no choice, but he may elect to have it done later if he wants. Whereas once done it obviously can't be reversed. We left our boys intact and hope that more children are left with their bodies the way nature made them!

I was born in Denmark, where men are cut rarely, only for religious reasons. Growing up in the US, it was clear that I was different, but there were only a few times, in grade school dressing rooms, where other boys asked about it. As Randal said in the 1998 discussion: So far, there have been absolutely no problems, medical or social. It has basically been a non-issue. On the hygiene issue, I was disturbed to read the comments from a Dad of an 18 month old, who seems to be pulling back the foreskin daily. This was not my experience, nor what our pediatrician is advising for my 3 year old son. The foreskin is tight for a reason - to keep junk out! That makes it hard to pull back until the boy is older, so don't do it. I'm not an expert, so consult your own pediatrician, your milage may vary, ... At puberty, the foreskin loosens up considerably, so it becomes possible to pull it back easily, even over an erection. Discovery of masturbation helps this along. By the time I became sexually active, it was a non-issue. Because the foreskin is in place most of the time, the underlying skin is tender and sensitive. As the questioner's friends said, I have a hard time envisioning what it might be like for a *circumscribed* boy/man. Of course, you have to decide for yourself. For me, it's a no brainer - natural has no down side, so why cause the baby to suffer?

We did not circumsize our son despite my jewish mother's dire warnings (what if when he gets older he wants to marry a jewish girl and she wants him circumsized?!) our son is 14 months old. of the 9 boys i can think of off the top of my head (between 11mos and 4 years), none are circumsized. i can I can think of two, both jewish, who are. i thinks things are changing and by the time our kids get to the locker room, uncircumsized penises will be pretty common.

Check out a book in the Public Health Library, 'Just say no to circumcision' (or something like that) with foreward by Ashley Montague. Despite the strident title, it gives a lot of detailed information. The book says that circumcision reduces sensation--that circumcized men are less likely to use condoms, that sex is more difficult for circumcized men in late middle age, & that it is more common for things to go wrong during the procedure than dr.'s like to admit. Both here & in the Hite report (for men) the men who have been circumcized as adults have felt a diminishment in sexual sensation. I regret having had my son circumcized. The pediatrician said it wouldn't be that painful & that babies cry no more than when a breast is taken away. But my baby was clearly in agony & continued to scream long after the cutting was done. The dr. dismissed my question as to whether it would have any effect on sexual enjoyment.

By all means, if you don't want to do it, DON'T!! In my experience, the rate is about 50/50, so your son is unlikely to be teased. Neither of my boys (now 2.5yrs and 6 mos.) are circumcized, and the boys their ages that I run into here in Berkeley are about half circumcized and half not. If you deliver at Alta Bates, they don't do it- you have to arrange with a pediatrician. With the first, no one ever asked. With the second, the doc did (I was surprised), but then it was a Kaiser doc, so maybe their practices are different. In any event, if you want physical reasons, I've got literature on it. If you want testimonials, I might be able to get some from folks I know, but then there are probably plenty of dads on this line that could give you that!

My 19 month old son is not circumcized. Obviously, I cannot yet speak from experience about what sort of reactions he will get in school, since he and his toddler cronies don't even pee in potties yet. However, what I can say is that, in the process of researching the decision, and in the year and a half since, I've come to believe that many people these days are choosing not to circumcize, so my son is likely to be part of a first gerneration in which some classmates are, some aren't, so no one stands out as mockably different. 

Did we make a mistake not having our son circumcised?

From: a mom (11/98)

I'm feeling uncertain about my (our) decision not to have our son circumcised. My reasons were based on the lack of any medical necessity for the procedure and my belief that it's nothing more than an outdated religious ritual. But mostly I just didn't see any reason to inflict needless pain on my baby. I researched the current trends, asked doctors and saw an alarming documentary on the subject. My husband went along with my concerns, but we never had much support from the rest of the family. Our son is now nine months old.

My sister-in-law just had a baby boy. She was eager to tell me that he slept right through the circumcision. Now I'm afraid I've made the wrong choice for my son who's the one who has to live with my decision! What's a circumcision like for an older child or adult? What are other parents doing with their sons?

From: Laurel

We didn't circumcise our son, who is now almost 3 months old. It wasn't a hard decision for us to make, since we are not Jewish or Muslim. The United States seems to be the only place in the world where routine non-religious circumcision is performed. Is there any reason you think your son would want a circumcision later in life? Adult circumcisions are extremely painful, from what I understand. My advice is, don't worry about it. The decision has already been made, and agonizing over it will only make your son feel like something's wrong.

From: a Dad

We have an 18 month old boy and we chose not to circumcise him against the strong wishes of my Jewish parents for the same reasons you mentioned (no strong medical evidence of benefits...etc.). However, after living with the consequences I am beginning to regret our decision. My parents got over it and haven't mentioned it since we argued the initial decision. However, dealing with the hygiene issue is much more difficult that I expected. I'm sure that as he gets older and the foreskin becomes able to recede, cleaning may not be a big deal. However, for the past 18 months and for some time to come it will require daily attention and I still think he is much more prone to infections than a circumcised child. At the time I thought that performing surgery to reduce the chances of a rare cancer just didn't make sense. In retrospect I think going through what I've heard is a fairly simple and quick procedure would have been the better choice for us. Does anyone have experience with circumcising older children? I'm certain the trauma would be significantly greater now but has anyone done it at 18 months of age or older and what are your thoughts? Are uncircumcised people more prone to other problems (yeast infections...etc)? Please help. I don't want to wait longer to make this decision.

From: a new dad

My personal experience: When our baby boy was born in August my wife and I had discussed the circumcision question. She was against doing the operation. I was ambivalent about it but now that our little baby is almost 3 months old I am glad we did not do a circumcision. It wasn't the pain issue. It's this: Now he can decide when he's older what he wants to do. The decision is now left to him. If we'd proceeded on our own, he'd never, ever, ever, be able to do anything about it. Ever. Pretty simple, eh? So my advice to the new mom is, you have done fine! Don't give it a second thought! Let your grown son deal with it later; he can make the decision for himself. I would have rather liked that explanation from my own parents (grin)!

From: Karen

With regard to the mother who's questioning her decision to not circumcise. When my son was born 16 years ago, I decided not to circumcise him. Neither his father nor I had any definite feelings on the subject one way or another, but it wasn't until I was doing my post-surgery walk past the nursery and heard a baby screaming, only to ask a nurse and discover that the baby was being circumcised...that's when I made my decision! The only problem I can say you need to be careful of, if you don't clean it and pull the skin off the head (sorry for the graphic description), it will start to grow together. And as they get older, you still have to make sure the area underneath the foreskin is clean and let your son know about cleaning himself properly as he gets older. I'm sure your pediatrician told you this. My son who is now 16 has never had any problems or comments on it in the locker room in school and is totally comfortable with himself. I wouldn't worry about your choice.

From: Barbara

My son had his circumcision done across the hall from my hospital room and I can verify that he screamed bloody murder when it was in process. I am sure it was painful and I don't know if I would opt to have it done again with another child. Dr. Dean Edell speaks vehemently about there being absolutely no necessity for it. Good luck with your decision.

From: Randal

My son is now 12 years old and was not circumcised for exactly the same reasons you chose not to circumcise your son. We also did not receive much family support for the decision, although no real opposition to it either. So far, there have been absolutely no problems, medical or social. It has basically been a non-issue and I see no reason for it to become one.

From: kimberly

mothering magazine has had several issues and a special publication on circumscision if your interested 1- 888- 984- 8116.

From: Dianna

Re: circumcision. I, too, elected not to have my son circumcised, based mostly on the thought that it was his body, not mine. I've worked in the Middle East a bit and am somewhat familiar with Islamic practices, where boys are circumcised at around age 13 as a rite of passage into adulthood.

Although some Islamic cultures treat this as a real macho test of a boy's ability to withstand pain, most areas and people are very sensible about it and anesthetic and so forth are used and it's not such a big deal. And there are tens of millions of Moslem men walking around today who had this procedure done at this age and are neither physically nor emotionally crippled.

So my reasoning is that there is plenty of time and that my son can decide for himself if and when he wants it done. Jewish culture traditionally goes for the 8th day and I think it is very important for many traditional Jewish people, a sign of the child's covenant with God. However, if you have no strong belief's like this, I don't see a need to rush into such a procedure. Let him decide for himself.

From: kim

My son is eight and uncircumcised. So far no problems at all with the lack of procedure. His father was born in rural Louisiana in the middle fifties where it was not common to circumcise. He never had the procedure done and also never any problems....I did't see a medical reason for the procedure and am curious about the content of the 'alarming documentary' you saw. Can you remember the name and where it aired?

From: Carolyn

I have two sons, one is 1.5 and the oldest is 4 years old. We had our oldest son circumcised but ran into a problem when the bell that they fix on the penis fell off leaving a knob of skin still attached. We had to take him into the doctor's office and have a floss type of string wrapped around the knob of skin so that it will fall off... Believe me, it was a painful experience to watch him scream and can not even image what the first procedure must of been like. Well, anyway the knob fell off leaving a little pocket (scar) in his penis. When our second son was born, we decided against it. It they are not born with their foreskin cut and pull back then to us, it is not necessary. I've heard horror stories of uncircumcised penises but to experience the above for our oldest is not worth it. Circumcision is definitely an individual decision.

From: a mom

Well, we decided not to circumcise our kiddo, now 7 months, for most of the reasons you mention: there is no medical necessity, a foreskin does not really complicate hygiene, lots of little boys are not circumcised, why not keep all original parts if possible, and no religious tradition to adhere to that made it obligatory or quasi-obligatory. But if my husband had felt strongly that the baby should be circumcised, I could have gone along with that, too. I tend to agree that it probably doesn't hurt a newborn that much; at a bris I attended recently, the baby cried much louder and longer about some annoyance well before the ceremony than he did during the actual circumcision. I have no idea what circumcision at 9 months would mean; I do know, however, from a friend who went through it (for a particularly unreasonable and demanding woman who later dumped him, too!) that adult circumcision is a dreadful experience. In my mothers' group, 2 of 4 little boys are uncircumcised. Other friends have also made different choices. Either decision is perfectly valid; one thing you can be pretty sure of is that your son will see plenty of other uncircumcised little boys as he grows up. I think you should stop worrying about it; it'll be fine.

From: Annie

You didn't make the wrong decision for all the reasons you cited. You made an informed decision. Your sister-in-law made a decision too, it was just different. I had a son this year and because we didn't have any religious reasons to have him circumcised, we didn't. We have never regretted our decision.

From: Jonathan

When our son was born, my wife and I bounced back and forth on this decision hourly it seemed. Finally we decided to do it; BIG mistake for us personally (I repeat personally). Our son had it done on the 7th day after birth and it was horrid. My wife couldn't bear to go, so I took him. We won't be doing this for our next child. Our son fought and wailed and screeched and changed all manner of color the human body is capable of while I sat there debating whether to shoot myself for putting him through it. Granted almost 4 years later he doesn't remember a thing, and of course he lived through it. But being that we found no medical reason to have it done, it was a mistake for our family. If we have another boy and the issue of why mine doesn't look like so-and-so's comes up, we'll just handle it. Finally, for emphasis, this was our personal experience. A bucket full of blessings to whoever had the child that slept through the procedure.

From: a mom

Both my sons were circumcised some years ago at birth and I have not regretted it. However, what I DO regret is letting them do it without anesthesia. I am very sorry I didn't insist on that and if I ever have another son, he will be circumcized, but with anesthesia. I don't know why this isn't done - One son had hernia surgery at 3 months under anesthesia and I was told it is very safe for babies. Good grief, even my cats get anesthesia when they go to the vet...

From: Katrin

As a woman I can't speak from personal experience, but my father had to have a circumcision for medical reasons when he was 14. He says that the procedure was harmless, it happened under anesthesia and there was hardly any pain afterwards. So I guess the only decision from your side that your son would have to live with forever is to have a circumcision now, since it's irreversible. If you don't do it now and he needs it later for whatever reason (religious or medical) he can still get it.

From: Lisa

I had a baby boy 5/20/98, and we did not have him circumcised, although every male in my and my husbands family has been for generations. I was unsure at first, then I read an article with graphic descriptions and photos, a historical perpective of the operation, and statitics (such as the risk of injury to the penis due to the circumcision is much greater than the risk of problems due to not being circumcisced in the future). While the risk of either is very small, this helped me put the thing in perspective: I had the option to cut off a large peice of my babys genitals. I thought that nature knows best, and I would let my son keep his parts. I now feel very sure that we did the right thing. Although my family is not so sure, citing a few penis statistic usually makes them so uncomfortable that they quickly change the subject.

From: Letitia

Not to drag out the circumcision discussion too long, but a couple of posters mentioned extra cleaning that they felt was required on an uncircumcised penis, pulling back the foreskin, etc. My understanding (esp. from the *Mothering* magazine articles on the subject) is that this kind of extra care is unnecessary and perhaps risky in terms of exposing skin that is not meant to be exposed. I specifically remember the doctor-author of the article saying, Leave the foreskin alone, don't retract it. Perhaps someone with more specific knowledge can back me up on this, but in our family, we never mess with it (our son is 4). The suggestion that the foreskin will grow together unless manually retracted is contrary to the laws of evolution: how could our species have survived if leaving the body alone disables the ability to pee, let alone reproduce?

From: Naomi

Just a brief response to the Dad concerned about the cleaning ritual involved with non-circumcized infants... is this something specific to your son? The advice is to NOT do anything specific to clean an uncircumcized penis (just soap and water on the outside like any other body part). NEVER try to retract the foreskin while it is still adhered to the head of the penis (this can last until 5 or 6 years of age, possibly even older, and is normally not a problem- it will eventually become retractable)- forceably retracting a tight foreskin can cause pain, damage and infection and is normally completely unnecessary. My son (nearly 2) is not circumcized and we have never paid any particular attention to cleaning his penis differently from any other part of him. So far he has experienced no problems and the foreskin is still not retractable. The doctor was even able to do a catheter urine collection when he was 21 months of age (he had a febrile seizure and they wanted to rule out infection) without disturbing the foreskin's adhesion.

From: Carol Lynn

I did not have my son circumscised at birth because I thought it was barbaric. The doctor told me to make sure my son did not retract the foreskin and leave it like that because it might hurt him. Well, he was so good about it that the foreskin grew together with a hole that was eventually the size of a pinprick. It was life threatening because he could barely pee out of it, and he had to be circumscised at age eight, which requires general anesthetic and a week to heal (not to mention the trauma). Since this happened I have heard of two more boys who had to be circumscised when they were older due to this same problem, so this is rare, but not unheard of.