Should You Circumcise the Penis of Your Son?

All parents should make an informed decision about circumcising the penis of their sons.

Circumcision of the penis is routine in the U.S., despite findings by the American Academy of Pediatrics that it’s generally unnecessary. The strongest arguments in favor of circumcision are, in fact, cultural not medical. Let’s review those arguments.

Religious. Some religions dictate that the penis of male infants be circumcised. Parents who embrace these religions will usually be aware of the procedures they must follow for the circumcision ritual.

Psychological. An often-heard argument involves the so-called “locker-room syndrome.” Its proponents claim that adolescent boys will make fun of the uncircumcised penises of their peers. Such teasing, it’s said, can be traumatic because adolescence is not a time when a boy wants to be different–in any way–from his classmates.

Nor, it is thought, will he want to be different from his father, who has probably had his penis circumcised.

Rumor has it that uncircumcised men experience more sexual pleasure than those who are circumcised. Actual research studies however, indicate that there’s little difference.

Medical. Infant penile circumcision is sometimes viewed as a preventive measure, since anywhere from 2% to 10% of uncircumcised adult males must undergo the procedure for medical reasons. These include recurrent infections of the glans and foreskin, phimosis–the inability to retract the foreskin from the glans of the penis, or paraphimosis–the inability to push the retracted foreskin back over the glans.

Some researchers claim that the female sexual partners of uncircumcised men develop more frequent vaginal infections than the partners of circumcised men. The clinical evidence here is contradictory, but circumcision does make it easier to clean the glans of the penis and avoid infection. Also, penile circumcision can make it easier to use penis enlarging devices like the Male Edge.

The main reason parents give for not circumcising their sons is the desire to avoid unnecessary surgery. Others simply don’t like to tamper with the penis when there is no compelling reason to do so. Still others believe that circumcision of the penis causes the infant deep-seated psychological harm.

Despite the position taken by the American Academy of Pediatrics, there is little popular support for parents who decide against circumcision of the penis. You’ll have to go out of your way to reassure such parents that they’ve made a good choice. You also need to tell them how to care for their son’s uncircumcised penis.

Parents of uncircumcised boys are often told to “retract the foreskin of the penis and clean the glans.” This advice is inappropriate. The foreskin and glans of the penis develop from the same embryonic tissue, and, in most boys, the foreskin doesn’t separate from the glans until somewhere between the ages of three and six. At birth the foreskin may be slightly retractable, but it’s rarely fully so. Trying to force back the foreskin can cause it to tear and may lead to infection.

Once the child has reached the age of three, it’s all right for parents to try to retract the foreskin during his bath. They should hold the shaft of the penis with the thumb and index finger and gently pull the skin of the shaft back toward the child’s abdomen. If they meet any resistance or if the child displays any signs of discomfort, however, they should stop. They can try the procedure again in a few months.