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Learn about the risks and benefits of circumcising your son.
Source: The 2006 U.S. National Hospital Discharge Survey
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Linda Murray: If you have a boy, you’ll need to decide whether to have him circumcised. Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, which covers the end of his penis. It’s usually done within a few days of birth, sometimes later. The practice is controversial among parents and some health-care providers.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that while there are some potential medical benefits to circumcision, the procedure isn’t essential to a baby’s health and parents should come to their own decision about whether to go ahead with it.
What are some of the potential benefits? Circumcision may slightly lower the risk of urinary-tract infections, cancer of the penis, and HIV. But whether your son is circumcised or not, he has a low chance of developing these conditions and HIV risk is tied much more strongly to sexual behavior than circumcision status.
The procedure may help to prevent infection and make it easier to keep the genital area clean. Some families decide to circumcise because of religious beliefs, cultural reasons, or simply a preference that their son look the same as his family members or peers if many of them are circumcised.
Now the potential risks. These include complications, such as bleeding, infection, injury, and improper healing. Complications like these don’t happen often, but some parents decide they just don’t want to risk them for a procedure that isn’t medically necessary. Also, removing the foreskin may reduce sexual pleasure, since it has more nerve endings than the tip of the penis. One note, if you’re planning to breastfeed and circumcise your son, you may want to talk to your doctor about delaying circumcision until after breastfeeding has gotten off to a good start. Your son is likely to sleep a lot after circumcision and could miss some feeding sessions, which could put a kink in the breastfeeding process.