Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Expecting Parents Disagree About Circumcision

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am expecting my first child, and I just found out it is a boy. With all the excitement that came with this news, some concerns definitely popped up in my mind -- specifically about how he enters this world and whether or not I should have him circumcised.

My husband is all for the procedure, but after reading a few articles, I don't feel it is the right thing to do to a newborn. I don't want my baby to feel tremendous pain. I see no difference between male circumcision and female genital mutilation. Both acts hurt the individual and are taking away something they were born with. How can I convince my husband to see my side on why our baby should not have this done to him? -- To Cut or Not To Cut

DEAR TO CUT OR NOT TO CUT: This is an age-old question, sometimes rooted in religious doctrine. Jewish boys are circumcised in a ceremony called a bris, and Muslim families also perform this ritual in their faith. It is not medically required in most cases, and today, about 60% of boys in the United States are circumcised at birth, compared to 80% in the 1970s.

While I understand your concern about the procedure, please know that it is not the same as female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision. That practice has no health benefits; it is painful and often dangerous, and it leaves women without feeling in their genitals. That is not true for male circumcision. Doctors say that the pain for infants is nominal and short-lived. Many doctors believe it is safer health-wise to circumcise boys, as it helps to keep their genitals clean, and it significantly reduces the risks of a number of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

No matter what you choose, if you teach your son to keep himself clean, doctors say that an uncircumcised male can be as healthy as a circumcised one.