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To circumcise or not?

Being a new parent of a baby boy in the United States today presents a unique question: Should my son be circumcised?

In most parts of the world, men are not circumcised. Circumcision has become something of an American phenomenon. But that appears to be slowly changing.

Whether or not to circumcise your baby is a decision based on the beliefs and of you and your partner and your assessment of the current information. You may feel pressure from family members who grew up in a time when just about every baby boy was circumcised. Some relatives may be uncomfortable with the idea of not circumcising the baby. For example, ritual circumcision is an integral part of the religion and culture of many Jewish people.

If you need help with your decision about circumcising your baby, a talk with your pediatrician about the risks and benefits of the procedure may help.

No longer routinely recommended

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has concluded that although there are potential benefits to circumcision — decreased risk urinary tract infections in infants; sexually transmitted diseases and penile cancer in adults — the data are "not significant enough" to recommend the procedure routinely.

Urinary tract infections and penile cancer are still very rare, even in uncircumcised males. About sexually transmitted diseases, the AAP states, "behavioral factors appear to be more important risk factors."

Pain control essential

If you do decide to circumcise your son — for cultural, religious or medical reasons — the American Academy of Pediatrics states that relieving pain is essential. Studies have shown that numbing creams and injections are safe and effective.

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Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, Task Force on Circumcision, Circumcism policy statement; Health Online, Inc.

First published: 01/04/2000
Last updated: 10/14/2007

Reviewed by: Michael Slama, MD, Allina Health Mercy Women's Health Clinic