Saturday, August 21, 2010

Circumcision Waning in the US?

When I found out that my second child was a boy, in 2005, I started researching circumcision.  At the time, I remember that the rates of circumcision were lower than I had anticipated.  While it's true that the majority of adult men born in the United States are circumcised, around 80%, it's also true that the percentage for new babies has been sliding downwards for a while.  If I remember correctly, the research I did suggested that my son's peers would be about 60% circumcised and 40% intact here in New England.  Out West it was 60% intact and 40% circumcised.   

Not that this was my deciding factor, but I was interested to know what the percentages were.  One part of me wondered:  Would my little guy look different from almost everyone else?  Would he care?  But I also kept going back to that old parental question my dad was (in)famous for asking:  "If everyone else jumped off the bridge, would you do it too??"  They wanted me to resist peer pressure way back then, and make my own decisions! 

The New York Times recently published an article indicating that the rates of circumcision may be dropping more precipitously than people thought:  "Steep Drop in Circumcisions in U.S."  Although measuring the circumcision rate was not the objective of the study, the research suggests that
"the rate had fallen precipitously – to fewer than half of all boys born in conventional hospitals from 2006 to 2009, from about two-thirds through the 1980s and ‘90s. . . Opponents of circumcision hailed the trend as a victory of common sense over what they call culturally accepted genital mutilation. For federal health officials, who have been debating whether to recommend circumcision to stem the spread of AIDS, the news suggests an uphill battle that could be more difficult than expected. "
Further into this article, the author mentions that it seems possible that the C.D.C and the American Academy of Pediatrics are considering changing their current, neutral, stance toward circumcision.  However, the author concludes:
"Yet even advocates of circumcision acknowledge that an aggressive circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact on H.I.V. rates here, since the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk, men who have sex with men."
To read more about circumcision, including information about the procedure, caring for an intact baby's penis, and circumcision and AIDS, check out NOCIRC's publications.  There are more links in one of my past posts, Circumcision Information, including some in the comments section. 

I also found this video, The Prepuce to be helpful.  Don't worry - it doesn't actually show the procedure.  Because you might not want to watch that, right?

I don't talk much about circumcision during my classes.  If the couple is expecting a boy, or may be having a boy, I ask them if they have questions.  I offer the resources that I listed here.  And then, if they are planning to circumcise, I ask them who is going with the baby?  "...Hmmmm..." is usually the answer I get.  And you know what, I leave it at that.  Well, unless that opens up more questions - which let me tell you, it sometimes does.  For example, here are the thoughts of a blogging dad I worked with, in a series of three Circumcision Decision posts - scroll down to read them in order.

Christina @ Birthing Your Baby
Independent Childbirth Classes for Central Maine
Mamas & Muffins: New Moms Group

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Anonymous Hugh7 said...

Brava! Your low-key approach looks like a good one. I especially like "Who is going with the baby...?" Implying someone must, otherwise it'll be the first time he's away from his mother ever, and for that. Mothers who agree to it, but can't bear to watch, baffle me.

There is a lot of doubt about the accuracy of the figures showing a decline, but if true, they give the lie to "He'll be teased in the locker room." It may be the cut boys who'll be teased, and which would you rather have to comfort, one you could tell "They're different because their parents all had part of their [euphemism]s cut off, and we didn't" or one you had to tell "They're different because we had part of your [euphemism] cut off, but their parents didn't"?

Another statistic from that study was that 0.08% of males require circumcision later in life - if it's true, or even partly true, so much for "Do it now, because it'll only have to be done later"!

The study was actually about complications (and found very few), but it defined them very conservatively, and excluded any beyond babyhood, such as all sexual complications.

August 22, 2010 at 7:50 PM  
Blogger KOTFrank said...

BloggingDad in 2008's poll comes very close to reflecting today's lower circumcision rates.

Seeing is believing. BloggingDad needs to see a restored foreskin real time.

August 24, 2010 at 2:07 AM  
Blogger GeologyJoe said...

nearly 2 years later and it was still the right decision.

August 26, 2010 at 9:04 PM  

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