This blog article includes some great visuals on circumcision if you've never seen an uncircumcised male and aren't quite "getting it". Sometimes people say the foreskin is a flap of skin, but it is actually part of a man's penis and definitely has a function.
I was shocked to read the CDC's recent statement about circumcision. Maybe I shouldn't have been, because it mirrored the AAP's recommendation. But after all the research I've done over the years and looking at all the numbers I couldn't understand how the CDC could make such a blanket statement that will influence parents to think circumcision is best for all babies. I'm not even making the case against circumcision; I'm just pointing out the problems with this one report.
First of all, it's all in the name: CDC. Center for DISEASE Control. They're looking at circumcision from it's impact on disease in society, and that's all. That's OK, because that's their job. I just wish there had been some acknowledgement on the other considerations to circumcision. They site that rates of STDs and UTIs would go down if all were circumcised. That's probably true, but there are other drawbacks that are not diseases, and therefore outside the CDC's purview. Parents need to make a choice based on their one child, but government agencies make recommendations for society as a whole.
The CDC assumes there is no other way to stop the spread of STDs other than circumcision. Two main ones come to mind, condoms and abstinence. Are we just giving up on these and admitting defeat? What if we took the money spent on removing foreskins and spent it on condoms? What if we taught children honestly and explained how if you don't want to sexually transmit diseases, then limiting your sexual partners makes sense. Also, circumcision is not protecting against STDs, it's just making it less likely to get one. Of course a circumcised man can still be infected, and it's doing nothing for women and gay men, so is that the best we can do? Surgery on every male baby to make it less likely some of them will get an STD? I just think there's more we can do on that front.
They took a study done on STD rates in Africa and extrapolated it to Americans. In America, only one in ten new cases of AIDS is a heterosexual man (the only group circumcision will affect). Also, AIDS is much more prevalent in Africa. There are also other studies showing similar rates of STDs in Europe and the US when circumcision is much more common here. If circumcision is so effective at preventing STDs, then why is there no correlation between the two when looking at other countries?Obviously, studies need to be done on the population the CDC is recommending the procedure for.
The UTI prevention argument seems silly to me. Boys get UTIs less often than girls; and this makes sense when their urethra is longer and it's harder for bacteria to get up there. Of those few boys who do get one, they can be treated with antibiotics just like the girls. Should we be performing surgery that removes protective tissue and sexual function in order to lower rates of a treatable infection? That strikes me as overkill.
We aren't cutting off girls' protective labia because it might lower the chance they get a treatable infection and STDs. Labia probably do provide a place for bacteria and viruses to live, but they also have a protective role-just like a foreskin. In fact, the counties that practice female circumcision are widely thought of as barbaric!
My next point is largely assumptive on my part, I'll admit. However, it makes sense. If the CDC labels circumcision as something that lowers disease rates, then insurance companies will be more likely to pay for it. Lately, more insurance companies are labeling it cosmetic and elective. I have to believe doctors probably like performing circumcisions because it's a quick, easy procedure. Call me cynical, but everyone likes more money, right?
I could go on and on, but I think I've made my point. There's a lot more to consider when deciding to circumcise than just the CDC's statement.
I'm a natural childbirth educator, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and doula in Athens, AL. Here is where I put healthy recipes, current research, and helpful articles for pregnancy, postpartum, and life in general. Check back often!