being a mom

Mommyish Facebook Live Q&A On Circumcision Recap: Foreskin Fun For Everyone!

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In case you missed it, we teamed up with The Whole Network, a nonprofit charity, in a Facebook Live Q&A yesterday to discuss all of your burning questions about the male genitalia. As an afterthought, I probably shouldn’t use the words “burning” and “male genitalia” in the same sentence ever again.

Overall, the live discussion went well, and we are eternally grateful to Larissa Black of The Whole Network for taking the time to chat with us and provide information about the intact movement. I personally was happy to see a rational, balanced back-and-forth conversation on the topic of circumcision since we all know how CRAY this subject can get.

Unfortunately, the circumcision decision often brings up a direct attack on parenting from other parents who have made different choices. My husband and I chose to circumcise our kids, and that is not a secret. Since their foreskin is never going to grow back, we support our choice for our family. If any of my friends objectively asked for my opinion, I would give it to them: I’m happy that we circumcised our kids. I would recommend it. I believe there is ample medical evidence to support it, if a parent so chooses. I would do it again if I had another son.

So there I stand, a pro-circumcision mom. Still, I was really interested to see the questions and answers in this CIRC JERK discussion because I am open to arguments on both sides. If you missed the Facebook fun yesterday, here are some of the best questions to help you make the circumcision decision for your own family:

1. Sam: Are there any cons to not getting circumcised?

Hi Sam. In our society there are many perceived cons associated with the natural, intact penis. Most of these are myth-based or easily managed with less invasive means than surgery. Cleanliness is one concern we hear about often. Many believe the male foreskin is inherently dirty or requires special care. It does not. Only clean the outside of the foreskin in youth- no retraction. Later in life, when the foreskin has loosened and become retractable, just a simple retract and rinse underneath in the shower is all that is needed. There’s also a study showing that circumcised boys require even more care than intact boys in the first few years of life.

2. Alexis: Curious to know what you think the biggest myth is regarding not circumcising a boy?

Alexis, that’s a tough one. We hear an awful lot of myths surrounding this topic. I think a big belief in the US is that everyone gets it done. According to the most recent numbers from the CDC, the infant circumcision rate in the US is at about 56%.

3. Elizabeth: What are some good ways to talk to relatives about circumcising their newborns? They know we don’t. I’d like to bring it up gently but I’m not sure how.

Elizabeth, that’s always tricky, especially when it’s family. Social media has been a great tool for sharing information. If you are Facebook friends with them, there are lots of wonderful graphics and articles you can share to start the conversation. We always recommend this one written by our founder Lauren Jenks. The information is accurate yet presented in a nonjudgmental way.

4. Vanessa: What are the benefits to circumcision?

Vanessa, there are some benefits infant to circumcision according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It should be noted, however, that their most recent stance issued in 2012 does state that these benefits are not great enough to recommend the routine circumcision of all newborn boys.

A lower risk of UTI has been established in circumcised boys, but the difference is only 1%. Given the high rate of risks and complications with circumcision, this is not a significant enough difference to justify the routine circumcision of infant boys. Urinary tract infections are rare and when they do occur, they respond well to antibiotics for both boys and girls.

There are other alleged benefits such as lower rate of STDs and HIV, yet these are highly contested. While some studies show a lower rate with circumcision, others show an elevated rate. (These are linked in the library on our website.) Regardless of whether a person is circumcised or intact, safe sex including condoms are necessary to prevent the spread of STDs.

5. Eve: What do you say to people who just don’t find foreskin aesthetically attractive?

Eve, we all have our own preferences in the bedroom and that’s okay. What a person needs to understand is, just because they personally find a circumcised penis more attractive does not mean their sons or their sons’ future sexual partners will feel the same way.

6. Alex Lee: I’ve read and seen conditions of phimosis – where retraction of the foreskin becomes too painful to perform. This leads to bacterial infection and can impact urination and sexual performance. I just wanted this to be acknowledged.

Hi, Alex Lee. Thank you for bringing up phimosis- I am happy to address that. First, it should be noted that phimosis can still occur in a circumcised child. It’s actually listed on the Stanford School of Medicine’s website as a possible complication of circumcision.

When a tight foreskin does occur, it can almost always be very easily treated with application of a prescription steroid cream along with foreskin stretching exercises. There are also devices that can be purchased to stretch the foreskin at home. Surgical intervention is rarely needed for a tight foreskin.

7. The Mediocre Mama: In the us, why is male circumcision typically seen viewed as acceptable while female circumcision is seen as mutilation/torture?

The Mediocre Mama, that is a wonderful question and I think it just boils down to cultural conditioning. In other countries, FGM is just as deeply ingrained as male circumcision is here. There are also many beliefs about FGM being different and worse than what is done to a little boy when the fact is there are many types of FGM ranging from a pinprick of the clitoris to sunat (removal of the clitoral hood) all the way up to infibulation, the rarest and least commonly practiced form. The AAP even tried to bring back legal rights to perform the ritual nick to little girls a few years ago, and they even admitted that it’s far less invasive than what we do to a little boy during routine circumcision.

8. Bethany: Do you have any commentary on the recent pro-circumcision study?

First it should be noted this paper is not the result of any actual new research. A man by name of Brian Morris, who hails from Australia and is not a medical doctor, pored over the studies posted on Pubmed and cherry-picked information to come to these conclusions. I’m honestly surprised it was published at all. His statistics are not accurate and again, referring to circumcision as a surgical “vaccine” has dangerous implications that the child will be immune to STDs.

(Image: Lemuana/Shutterstock)