What a dilemma for a new parent if you have a baby boy i.e. depending on which country you live in, unless of course it is being done for medical reasons. In the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa or parts of Europe – it is most probably something you don’t even consider too seriously, because it is not the common practice. But in America where so many men are circumcised – it is a real issue, and the conflicting debate that goes on – only makes the decision more difficult.
In countries around the world – it was hospital policy for newborn boys to be circumcised, and now this no longer applies. You have medical specialists who used to advocate it – and now they don’t, and you can read research papers by these same medical specialists advocating it and others who are against it. What I have learnt from years as a nurse – is that research can be “scientific” but that means very little unless every possible variation is ruled out – which is extremely difficult to do. So – you can read research paper after research paper – which will be influenced by the belief of the person writing the article – and you, unless you are an expert in scientific research – will have trouble assessing the value of the study.
As with any surgical procedure – there are risks involved, the most common complications being scarring, infection and bleeding, and you have to weigh up whether you want to take the risk for the sake of the benefit that may result.
Those who are considering newborn circumcision for religious or cultural reasons tend not to face this dilemma, because it is automatically assumed that this will happen. The dilemma that might face you, is whether your baby is being given adequate pain relief. I have always considered myself a campaigner for babies rights – as they cannot speak up for themselves. We all know how sensitive our sexual organs are, so it takes no imagination to guess how many millions of nerve endings would be involved! So if you do choose newborn circumcision – please ensure that your baby has adequate pain relief. (This is another topic all on it’s own, and because your baby is so small – great care has to be taken when working out the correct dose of pain relief – consult a Neonatal doctor so that you can be sure your baby will not come to any harm).
There are two methods - one using a metal ring - and the other - a plastic ring.
With the metal ring the foreskin (prepuce) is removed – the part that covers the end of the penis – the penis is then covered with gauze and ointment (the ointment may contain substances to reduce infection, reduce pain, and also the presence of the ointment may reduce the stinging when your baby passes urine.)
With a plastic ring - a piece of suture is tied tightly around the foreskin. The skin is pushed into a groove in the plastic over the head of the penis. Within 5-7 days, the plastic covering the penis falls off, leaving the area healed. In the USA circumcision is usually carried out before the baby leaves hospital.
The benefits that have been found with circumcision – mostly manifest once the boy is sexually active. Benefits like reduced risk of the female partner developing cancer, reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases; with regard to the risk of urinary tract infections – it seems that the research on that is contradictory. If the main benefits are going to occur when the boy is older and sexually active – one consideration is that the boy himself could make the decision when he is older/ or as an adult.
If you do decide on newborn circumcision:
* Discuss with your doctor that it is safe for your baby to have the operation
* Ensure that newborn circumcision is carried out by an expert
* Discuss appropriate pain relief with a Neonatal Doctor
* Ensure that the wound is covered with a water-proof ointment to prevent the urine from stinging
* Prevent the diaper from rubbing against the wound – ask your doctor about this.
* Change poopey diapers promptly
* Change wet diapers every 3 – 4 hours initially.
* Give your baby lots of cuddles, and ensure that your baby is feeding adequately to maintain hydration
Whether newborn circumcision is right for your baby boy – is a decision only you can make. Whether circumcision is right for your teenage or adult boy – is a decision you can make together.
Visit our New Parents Videos area for help on all aspects of Newborn care, including establishing successful breastfeeding.