Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Circumcision: Yes or No ...or Wait?

So you’re going to circumcise your son and that’s final.  I get it.  Nothing I can say will change your mind.  I won’t even try.  He is your son.

Could I at least get you to consider waiting?

So many times this is viewed as a yes/no at-the-hospital decision, when actually it can also be a not-just-yet decision.  It can be done at any time, really.  Maybe you just want to get it over with, but really this shouldn’t be about your convenience, but his health.  If its healthier and safer to wait, why wouldn’t you?  I can give you so many reasons why the longer you wait to have it done, the better it is for him.  

So at least don’t do it in the first few days of his life.  His little body is so new and fragile, and his penis is so tiny (no offense)  ;)  It is extraordinarily easy to take too much or too little skin when its that small and we’re talking millimeters.  It is so important to get this right, yet this is the most difficult time in his life for that to happen.  Also, breastfeeding is not well established yet.  On the chance that it really does interfere, it is worth it to wait.  You’ll kick yourself later if breastfeeding doesn’t work out.  Won’t you always wonder if there was something you could have done differently to help breastfeeding go more smoothly?  This is one thing.  Many mothers report that their sons will not make eye contact or breastfeed after the pain of their circumcisions, and that they view it as a betrayal by their mother to allow this painful thing to happen to them.  I don’t know if that’s really true or not, but could you wait just a little bit after that crucial initial bonding time and he’s feeding and gaining weight?  

Also, since he’s so tiny, another major risk of this delicate surgery is hemorrhage.  It is so easy to nick that teeny tiny artery.  It doesn’t take but half a shot glass worth of blood loss (2.3 ounces) for your baby to bleed to death at this stage, and it happens fast.  Just one ounce of blood loss puts them into shock.  If you think I’m exaggerating the dangers of the surgery at this age, I’m really not.  About the same number of boys die at this age from circumcision, it is estimated, than from SIDS, and you’d do anything to reduce his risk of SIDS, yes?   And trust me, this is not the way you want to find out if your son is a hemophiliac.

Also, babies do feel pain, the foreskin has some 20,000 nerve endings (NSFW), it is not just dead skin, and he is too small for an effective anesthetic to be safe.  The pain is extreme, I’m sorry to say.  You’ve maybe heard stories of babies sleeping through the procedure, but I assure you, many babies react to this extreme pain by going into shock.  They are completely restrained and no one is reacting to their screams, so this is one way that some of them cope.  If you wait, he can at least get effective, safe anesthesia. There is nothing wrong with just waiting.  You’ll be taking him to well baby checkups all the time anyway.  It’s simply one more appointment, its not a big deal.



As far as UTI’s go, his absolute risk is only about 1% or less and UTIs are readily treated with antibiotics.  Don’t forcibly retract and his UTI risk is even lower, more on that next.  The serious complication rate of circumcision, however, is about 4% and those can be much more complicated to fix if they can be fixed at all.  Adhesions after circumcision are painful to resolve and breathtakingly common. There are more men out there than you realize who have simply learned to live with a botched circumcision. (Link NSFW)


Speaking of infection, could you wait until he is out of diapers?  If we are talking about cleanliness, how clean is it to have an open wound exposed to urine and feces in a diaper all day?  His risk of infection and things like meatitis will go way down if you just wait until he is potty trained, and intact care for the baby is so easy!  All you have to do is clean it like you would a finger, and for God’s sake don’t let anyone forcibly retract his foreskin before it separates on its own.  It protects the head of the penis in the diaper and is fused to it with the same biological mechanism that attaches your fingernails to your fingers.  You don’t need to rip the baby’s nails off to clean his fingers.  Ripping the foreskin away is just as painful and just as sensible, and causes its own complications.  If any doctor advises you to, direct them to the AAP on the subject.  (They say no)  It probably won’t retract on its own until age 5 or even 10, and that’s really not a problem healthwise, so just leave it alone and be patient. 
 

Which brings me to waiting until his foreskin is fully retractable on its own.  A good deal of the trauma and infection risk from the procedure is from ripping the foreskin away before it is cut off, exposing the raw, bleeding, very tender skin on the head of the penis.  If you wait until the retraction process has worked itself out naturally, you’ve cut the pain and the healing process in half making for a much easier recovery. In the mean time, hygiene for the naturally retractable, intact penis is trivial - pull it back, rinse, replace. That's it. Most young boys are more than happy to play with their penis a bit in the shower, so in reality, that's not a huge deal. And with proper care (no premature forced retraction), YOU will likely never even have to do it for him.



So if you’ve waited this long, your son is now able to understand your reasons and communicate with you about his feelings.  Why not talk it out with him and see if he wants to keep waiting?



Actually, since it is classified as an elective cosmetic procedure (non-therapeutic) with only shaky evidence of any statistically significant benefit, and he is still a minor, why not wait until he is 18 or older and can go ahead and give his own consent?  It really comes down to preference and it is his penis, after all, and he’ll soon be a man, legally and sexually.   Who knows at the time of his birth what his future peers will have in their drawers, or what his girlfriends will prefer?  By the time he’s older, you might have a better idea about what he is facing socially.  The truth is the rates of circumcisions ARE dropping.  Maybe he’s totally fine with staying as he is.  Wouldn’t it be nice to give him the choice his father didn’t have?  His father is totally happy with his penis, yes, but really, by definition, he doesn’t know what he’s missing, so how does he really know which is better for his son?  What if a foreskin is actually a good thing to have?  What if? (Video in link NSFW)



Or maybe, after some reflection, he really wants it done.  He sees some benefits and wants to look like his dad and whatnot.  No problem.  He’s not in diapers, he CAN have all the safe pain relief he needs, both during and after the procedure, he’s at much lower risk for bleeding to death and his body is so much better at fighting off infection.  Perhaps most importantly, he is fully developed and the object they are operating on is much much larger and easier to work on than when he was a newborn baby, thus the chances of getting just the right amount of the right skin are so much better.


Best of all, you are completely absolved of any possible feelings of guilt or regret, because this difficult decision was not your decision at all, but his own.  



There are so many reasons I won’t circumcise my baby son, but your mind is also made up - I respect that.  But I hope you can see that the worst possible time to do it is immediately after he’s born, and actually, the longer you wait, the better.  So please, just consider waiting.  That’s all.


P.S. And you don't even have to be annoying like me about it either. If someone asks "Did you have him circumcised?" You can simply say "Not yet." And leave it at that.

29 comments:

  1. AMAZING! Thank you so much for this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. brilliant post, soggy mommy. beautifully done. rational, reasonable, realistic. thanks for this.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just perfect! Thank you so much! May I share/print/memorize this for the whole world to read?

    ReplyDelete
  5. best i've ever read.. great job :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you for this! It is all so very true! PS I love your blog title we are crunchy but soggy too!

    ReplyDelete
  7. You may want to edit the UTI part - the "fewer UTIs in circ'd boys" study included a large number of preemies, babies who are at significantly increased risk of infection - including UTIs.

    But I do love this post! I ALWAYS suggest waiting, ALWAYS. Partially because many parents do decide against circ once they get used to their "whole" baby, but also because if a parent is going to circ no matter what, it is soooo worth waiting until bf is established, they've had time to bond, etc., and also to reduce the risks of complications like you mentioned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm aware of the flawed methodology of that study. I'm just afraid if I get into that, some eyes will glaze over. I think its better to just stick to how low absolute risk is and how easy treatment and prevention is.

      Delete
    2. I am 70 years old, not circumcised, and never had a UTI

      Delete
  8. As a man circ'd at five months, whose penis is now useful only for peeing through, I urge every parent to consider the baby boy as a grown man with opinions of his own. Don't do it to him, he will regret it, and may well resent you.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @supermog: ask to tell your story as a guest post in a blog. Restoring Tally's, say, or Peaceful Parenting.

    There is an unspoken assumption in American popular culture that it's "maternity ward or never."

    The only drawback of circumcising after a boy is out of diapers and after his foreskin has separated from the glans, is that he will remain cognisant of the whole experience. The way to deal with that is to delay until he is 18 and do it only if he requests it. I warmly agree with all the medical advantages set out above of circumcising after infancy. Of course circumcising never is much better yet!

    The notion of creating a raw wound on the tip of the penis, that packing up the whole area in a diaper, has always grossed me out.

    The only problem that can occur before the onset of sex life that RIC supposedly addresses is UTI, and I agree with those who argue that Wiswell's UTI data are suspect.

    Most Moslems circumcise after the 4th birthday. Filipino boys are circumcised when they are 6 to 10. South Korean boys are circumcised when they are middle school age. Infant circumcision is a peculiarity of Judaism and Americans.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This article just saved a baby from RIC! Thank you so much <3

    ReplyDelete
  11. I agree one THOUSAND percent!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He will thank you for leaving him whole when he's a man. My son did.

      Delete
  12. I gave up on trying to even speak with people who are pro-circ. They get so defensive even at the mention of it. It's such an easy decision once you do your research (and, of course, don't focus on "researching" only what you want to hear). Willful ignorance is almost impossible to get passed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Willful ignorance is almost impossible to get passed." Its so true. Some people need to live a lie so they can feel good about their past decisions and themselves. They need to get their needs met at any cost, even if it means burying their head up their butt and never admitting that they are wrong.

      You may as well 'offend' them anyway. At least expose them to other people for the jerks that they are.

      Delete
  13. Thanks for such a great article. Circumcision for "cleanliness" or "aesthetic" reasons makes absolutely no sense. I know many grown men who were nor circumcised as babies and they didn't grow up to be filthy, infection-bearing barbarians. We as Americans cringe at female genital mutilation in other parts of the world, yet we still willingly mutilate our boys. Makes no sense.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Why anyone thinks that circumcision is a good idea is beyond me. It is appalling that so many still opt to have this done to their sons. I wonder is studies show a correlation to early pain and male withdrawal later? It would be interesting to see if males, who were never subjected to this trauma, showed better responsiveness emotionally.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Just because someone is young doesn't make them any less of a person. If I had the ability, I would not decide to circumcise my father, brother, uncle, etc...why would anyone decide to do that to someone just because they are not capable of communicating on their own? It all boils down to one issue...respect.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have 3 intact sons, and I expect that they will never choose to be circumcised at any point in their lives, but "waiting" does leave the decision up to them. Our non-decision for them is still fully reversible, and the same can not be said about RIC. I feel that whether or not to remove the most sensitive part of their body should be their own choice to make.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Perfect article for those who say they are going to cut anyway. At least just WAIT. One additional article you may want to link to when discussing the increased rates of failure to thrive and breastfeeding complications from cutting early on is this one: http://www.drmomma.org/2012/06/womanly-art-of-breastfeeding.html Thank you for writing!

    ReplyDelete
  18. This post is so well-written and rife with facts, links, and calm reasoning. Thank you so much for posting this! I will be linking all relevant parties to this!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Well hello there! It was such a pleasure to visit your personal blog and in particularly to read this blog post. And there is also one thing that I would like to ask you. What is your attitude towards guest blogging?

    ReplyDelete
  20. What an amazing blog!! Lets keep our babies intact, whole and perfect... the way God designed them!

    ReplyDelete
  21. War, death chair, prison, monetary system, government, religion and cicumsision. All barbaric, man-made practices that make little sense.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The main reason to leave him intact is because circumcision wrecks sex.

    ReplyDelete