The universal rate of circumcision is about 30%, with the highest levels of over 80% in the United States and some European and Asian cultures reporting the lowest. In recent years, there has been a gradual shift in the minds of health professionals who advocated for the parents’ right to choose circumcision or not. It is hard to argue with research that continues to show health benefits that seem to weigh heavily against some of the cons of newborn circumcision .
Reasons to Circumcise
A review of the current research shows numerous health benefits of newborn circumcision. Infant males can benefit from being circumcised since studies show that they have have significantly fewer UTIs. Circumcision affects sexually transmitted diseases in the following ways:
- Circumcision decreases getting HIV by 50-60%.
- Circumcision decreases the acquisition of herpes simplex type 2 by 30%.
- Human papillomavirus in circumcised men is 30% less prevalent.
- decrease in the incidence of syphilis
Though the incidence is rare, another health benefit from circumcision in later years includes a nearly complete elimination of penile cancer.
The circumcised male is not the only one who experiences health benefits. The female sexual partner of a circumcised male also benefits from her partner’s circumcision in the following ways:
- Bacterial vaginosis was reduced by 40%.
- Trichomonal vaginalis was reduced by nearly 50%.
Reasons to Avoid Circumcision
Those who support avoidance of circumcision cite several disadvantages of this procedure:
- pain and elevated levels of cortisol during the procedure
- surgical risk during the procedure
- risk of complications after the circumcision
- possible long-term psychological or behavioral effects
While it is true that there is pain from circumcision, local anesthetics and nerve blocks can and should be utilized. Risks do occur with circumcision; however, they are very rare and tend to be minor.
According to research studies, the rate of complications from circumcision is approximately .2% or about one in every 476 circumcisions. Research has not shown any newborn deaths from circumcision in developed countries. Most of the evidence that shows psychological effects from circumcisions have been anecdotal in nature.
Proponents of keeping newborn males in tact also cite that circumcision is a human rights violation since the baby cannot provide consent. This is a tough argument since so much of healthy newborn well care could fit this category including doing routine blood work and performing vaccinations.
Pending CDC Guidelines on Circumcision
Because of the renewed interest in the issue of circumcision, the CDC is currently reviewing its position on providing specific guidelines and recommendations for circumcision. There is reason to believe that the CDC guidelines may likely include a universal recommendation for newborn circumcision in the United States in order to reduce the spread of HIV.
The CDC estimated that about 56,000 people were newly infected with HIV and over 50% of these new cases occurred in gay and bisexual men. So the new guidelines represent an effort to curb the spread of HIV in this population, rather than in male-to-female transmission.
Newborn circumcision continues to stir up an emotional debate. Perhaps looking at the evidence, rather than feelings, will help us become aware of the best and safest practices for all.