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Looking for guidance on circumcision? You’re on your own

January 13, 2010 |  7:00 am

Baby1 Circumcision. It’s a delicate procedure and a loaded word, filled with connotations of pain, religious significance and hotly debated health benefits.

Some commentary in the current issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine shows that medical professionals are not quite ready to come down on one side or the other. “Recommendations for routine newborn circumcision will need to wait for well-designed studies that verify its cost-effectiveness for the individual and/or society,” the editorial said.

But another paper in the same issue pointed to three recent studies that found circumcision helped reduce HIV acquisition by up to 60%.

In this L.A. Times story, writer Marnell Jameson highlighted the dilemma for many parents looking to circumcise:

Those who strongly oppose infant circumcision believe the procedure violates a child's human rights. …

The downside of letting the child make the decision later is that adult circumcision is more expensive, painful and extensive. During an infant circumcision, practitioners numb the site with local anesthesia, then attach a bell-shaped clamp to the foreskin and excise the skin over the clamp. The clamp helps prevent bleeding. In adults, the procedure involves two incisions, above and below the glans (tip of the penis), stitches and a longer recovery. The cost is about 10 times that of a newborn procedure.

Bottom line: In the delivery room or afterward, no one’s going to be providing some infallible rules on circumcising your child. Do your homework before you have to decide. Here’s a brief description from the American Urological Assn. and some very helpful information from KidsHealth. Should you choose not to make the cut, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a guide on caring for an uncircumcised penis.

-- Amina Khan

Photo credit: Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times