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The Health Benefits of Circumcision

By Dr. Kristie

When parents give birth to a baby boy, they face the decision of whether to have the new family member circumcised or not. For some parents, circumcision is carried out for religious reasons, but for other families the issue centers around the health and well being of the baby. In the late 1990’s, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported that there wasn’t enough health evidence to recommend routine circumcision of newborn boys, but recently more data has become available which could impact a parent’s decision. For parents who are on the fence about the issue of circumcision, here are some health issues to consider.

Health benefits of circumcision: A reduced risk of urinary tract infections.

Most studies clearly show that circumcising baby boys reduces the risk of urinary tract infections during infancy and childhood. Although this is certainly a positive benefit, the risk of a male child getting a urinary tract infection is only about one in a hundred which may not make it worthwhile to undergo the procedure unless a child is at high risk of developing urinary tract infections for some other medical reason.

Health benefits of circumcision: Reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases as adults.

Studies show that circumcised men enjoy some degree of protection against heterosexual transmission of the Aids virus. It also decreases the risk of contracting the human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes genital warts, and the herpes simplex 2 virus – which causes another form of genital warts. The decision to circumcise can even affect a man’s future partner. Partners of men who are circumcised have a lower risk of developing both sexually and non-sexually transmitted vaginal infections. Circumcision also reduces the risk of cancer of the penis, but this is extremely rare.  

Health benefits of circumcision: It doesn’t adversely affect sexual function

Quite the contrary. One study showed that circumcised males have more penile sensitivity once the foreskin is removed and fewer problems reaching orgasm than uncircumcised males.  

Health benefits of circumcision: Consider the risks.

Fortunately, the complication rate with male circumcision is low, but not non-existent. It’s estimated that between 0.2% and 0.6% of circumcisions result in complications which can include infection and bleeding. More serious complications such as permanent injury to the penis are relatively rare. On the other hand, infants do feel pain and circumcision is likely to be associated with some degree of discomfort. Some parents don’t want to put a baby through this type of uncomfortable procedure.

Health benefits of circumcision: The bottom line?

There are some health advantages to circumcising a baby boy and the complication rate is low. If you choose to have it done, be sure to choose an experienced doctor who has performed many circumcisions. Also, be sure to ask about using local anesthesia which many hospitals now offer to reduce the pain and discomfort.

 

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