The Circumcision Decision

Circumcision is often a very tough and personal decision. Keep these facts in mind no matter which route you choose.

If you're having a boy, be prepared to answer this question in the hospital: Do you want to circumcise your baby? The procedure, which is most often performed by OB/GYNs within a day of your child's birth, is a simple one that involves using a clamp or scalpel to remove the foreskin covering the end of your baby's penis.

Is circumcision necessary? That depends on whom you ask. In the United States, circumcision became popular following a study conducted among military personnel in the 1940s. The study showed that men who were not circumcised had higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases than uncircumcised men. This was a flawed study, in that it didn't look at the sexual practices of the men involved; regardless, by 1965, about 80 percent of U.S. boys were being circumcised, supposedly to reduce the risk of infection.

The practice is less common now, with about 65 percent of newborn boys being circumcised. Circumcised males do have a small health advantage: Baby boys are slightly less likely to get urinary tract infections if circumcised, and the rate of penile cancer among circumcised men is lower than among those who are not circumcised. However, both of these conditions are extremely rare and may be more a result of poor hygiene. Another factor to consider is that complications do occur in about 1 in every 1,000 circumcisions; very rarely, there can even be severe damage to the infant's penis during the procedure.

In short, there is no absolute medical reason to circumcise, so it's really up to you. Some couples want their baby to look like his father and make the choice accordingly. Others worry about locker room differences, but researchers say men worry more about penis size than foreskins. In addition, by the time your child plays a sport, the numbers of circumcised versus uncircumcised boys will probably be 50-50.

If you do decide to circumcise your son, talk to your physician about anesthesia. Although substantial clinical research demonstrates that the procedure does cause newborns to feel pain, many physicians still do not use an anesthetic. Safe pain relief is available in the form of a numbing topical cream applied half an hour before the surgery or a local anesthetic medication injected with a needle.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

Parents Magazine


  1. Male circumcision is intrinsically harmful. Neonatal circumcision in particular is linked with a wide range of (developmental, lifelong) psychosexual sequelae. Depriving your son of free choice (religious as well as sexual) is not good parenting, never has been, never will be. All children deserve an open future., and are entitled to enjoyment of their evolutionary birthright. Believe me, it hurts being estranged from both parents, on account of their terribly ill-informed decision to have me circumcised as a baby.

  2. Quick tip for all you parents all out there: My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website >>>>SleepBaby .org<<<< - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out! Sorry, you can't post links here so you'll have to turn it into a normal link. >>SleepBaby .org<< Best of luck to you and your family! :)

All Topics in Baby Care Basics

Parents may receive compensation when you click through and purchase from links contained on this website.