Parental Choices… to circumcise or not?

I don’t even know what title to give this post… I saw someone post about a movie on Netflix called American Circumcision. Y’all, I have 3 boys who have all been circumcised so I was very curious what arguments this movie would give. It didn’t change my mind, but it seemed relatively even argued… both sides scoffed at the other side equally.

When my twins were born they 29 weeks and 3 days gestational age, they spent over 30 days in the NICU and were not circumcised in the hospital since infant circumcision isn’t performed on preemies. When they were released from the hospital I had to call around to different pediatricians to find someone who was willing to perform their circumcisions. It may not have helped that we were in Monterey, California *cough* *cough*… but we finally found a doctor who was about 107 years old and only worked one day a week who was willing to perform the procedure.

I was actually with both of my older boys when they were circumcised and Q was with D when his procedure was done since his was performed in the hospital after he was born.

Since the twins were preemies I was exposed to a lot more medical stuff than most first-time moms. T had to be intubated, both had umbilical catheters for a few days after their birth, both had nasogastric tubes (NG tubes), IVs in their hands and feet and wires stuck to them to monitor heart rate. The IVs in their hands required armboards to be taped to their arms to keep them from bending and tearing the IVs out. When you list it out it sounds pretty terrifying, but it was normal to us. They were our first kids and we didn’t really have any frame of reference.

Anyway, so I was very aware that sometimes medical stuff looks scary, but it’s necessary for the safety of the child (if an umbilical catheter is torn out a child can bleed to death, if an IV is ripped out a child’s veins can collapse and be unable to receive nutrients or medicine). You want to talk about scary? T had to have a spinal tap to test for meningitis… a needle in his SPINE… my 22 day old baby boy.

Basically when performing the circumcision they use velcro straps to hold the baby’s arms and legs still, inject a numbing agent into the shaft of the penis (which sounds like the worst part) and then the foreskin is separated from the glans (which looks like the worst part to me), a slit is made in the foreskin, the Plastibell device is slid under the foreskin, a ligature is tie around the penis which will cause the foreskin to fall off in about a week. It takes a total of about 10 minutes from start to finish. It’s not fun to watch, but it is so fast and doesn’t bother them at all afterwards. I gave ibuprofen for two days but that’s more to make ME feel better!

I would like to state, that I asked Q what he thought we should do and I read extensively about the procedures and the risks and the benefits. From what Q said, what I read and what I understood it was safe and it was what we ultimately agreed on. I am not here to debate whether infant male circumcision is right or wrong, I just wanted to share my thoughts and experiences. To be honest, the American Academy of Pediatrics can’t even agree on whether infant male circumcision should be performed. They basically cover their butt and say there’s no major reason to perform the procedure but no major reason not to perform it… its up the parents. Thanks for that, AAP. You can read the latest statement they released (in 1999) here as well as the previous statements from 1971, 1975, 1977, 1989, and 1997. Here is a very recent article about the immediate complications that can arise from infant male circumcision. Out of the 1115 patients, 41 had complications (that’s 3.9%) and almost all were minor.

None of my boys had any negative side effects to their circumcision, though I am not discounting that other people have had some. And I want to make it VERY clear that infant circumcision is NOT NOT NOT the same as female genital mutilation (FGM). Period. It isn’t even in the same universe. The only thing these two procedures have in common is that they are performed on the same area of the body. I would be more than willing to go into detail (I can even send you the paper I wrote on it for my Human Sexuality class when I attended the University of North Carolina- Wilmington), but I’ve found that it makes people uncomfortable to discuss FGM so I will just outline it. There are 4 categories of FGM and there are ZERO health benefits but dozens of complications and negative impacts of the health of the babies, girls and women that it is performed on.

Type 1: Often referred to as clitoridectomy, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals), and in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris). 

Type 2: Often referred to as excision, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora (the inner folds of the vulva), with or without excision of the labia majora (the outer folds of skin of the vulva ). 

Type 3: Often referred to as infibulation, this is the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and repositioning the labia minora, or labia majora, sometimes through stitching, with or without removal of the clitoris (clitoridectomy). 

Type 4: This includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, e.g. pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area. 

Deinfibulation refers to the practice of cutting open the sealed vaginal opening in a woman who has been infibulated, which is often necessary for improving health and well-being as well as to allow intercourse or to facilitate childbirth… Generally speaking, risks increase with increasing severity of the procedure.

Immediate complications can include: 
-severe pain
-excessive bleeding (haemorrhage)
-genital tissue swelling
-infections e.g., tetanus
-urinary problems
-wound healing problems
-injury to surrounding genital tissue

Long-term consequences can include:
-urinary problems (painful urination, urinary tract infections)
-vaginal problems (discharge, itching, bacterial vaginosis and other infections)
-menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.)
-scar tissue and keloid
-sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.)
-increased risk of childbirth complications (difficult delivery, excessive bleeding, caesarean section, need to resuscitate the baby, etc.) and newborn deaths
-need for later surgeries: for example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening (type 3) needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth (deinfibulation). Sometimes genital tissue is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing both immediate and long-term risks;
psychological problems (depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, low self-esteem, etc.)

Female genital mutilation is something that I am extraordinarily passionate about and I often hear people lumping infant male circumcision and female genital mutilation together. I want to get the information out there that they are NOT the same thing, there may not be extreme benefits for infant male circumcision, but there are also no extreme negative effects (barring the rare complications that can occur).

Obviously, I got distracted half-way through this post and went from light-hearted to super serious, but I hope y’all have learned something that will help you form some of your own opinions about this. Or at least given you a desire to learn more about infant male circumcision, or female genital mutilation. You can visit the Freedom Charity, the WHO, and 28 Too Many to learn more or find out how you can help end female genital mutilation.

I have no idea what I am doing (but I know we shouldn’t be doing that)


Leave a Reply