Most parents expect healthcare providers to answer their questions about circumcision, but they don’t want a specific recommendation on the procedure, according to a new University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
More than half of male infants born in the United States are circumcised, but the rates of circumcision continue to decline.
“Both pro- and anti-circumcision advocates feel strongly about their views, which can create anxiety for new or expectant parents who are trying to find objective information on which to base a decision. In this situation, healthcare providers can be an important source of help,” says Sarah J. Clark, M.P.H. , associate director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and associate research scientist in the University of Michigan Department of Pediatrics.
“But our poll shows that parents don’t want or expect a directive from their healthcare provider, but want them in a consultant role, providing information so they can make up their own minds.”
Over 40% of parents in this poll said the provider should not recommend a specific decision about circumcision, and 75% said that once a decision is made, providers should accept it without argument. So for providers, this sets up a different sort of relationship with patients, Clark says, in which the patient is looking to them as sounding board rather than a decision maker.
Parents do expect providers to give information about circumcision. In the poll, 87% would like to get information before the baby is born, and 81% feel their baby’s healthcare provider would be the best source. However, few parents meet with the pediatrician during the prenatal period.
“This is a missed opportunity for parents to hear from a trusted source at a critical time in their decision-making about circumcision. Many parents don’t know that they can schedule a prenatal visit with their child’s pediatrician to talk over issues just like these,” says Clark, who is also a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. Parents ranked healthcare providers as the best source of information, well ahead of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control, or parenting books. Only 5 percent of parents rated internet searches as a trustworthy source of information about circumcision and only 9 percent felt that they could tell the difference between true and false information on the internet.
“Welcoming a new baby is an exciting but also an anxious time. According to this poll, healthcare providers can best help their patients by being an unbiased source of information about circumcision rather than pushing a particular decision,” Clark says.
10 Reasons NOT to Circumcise Your Baby Boy
Because there is no medical reason for “routine” circumcision of baby boys. No professional medical association in the United States or the rest of the world recommends routine neonatal circumcision. The American Medical Association calls it “non-therapeutic.” At no time in its 75 years has the American Academy of Pediatrics ever recommended infant circumcision.
Because the foreskin is not a birth defect. The foreskin is a normal, sensitive, functional part of the body. In infant boys, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis (glans), protects it from urine, feces, and irritation, and keeps contaminants from entering the urinary tract. The foreskin also has an important role in sexual pleasure, due to its specialized, erogenous nerve endings and its natural gliding and lubricating functions.
Because you wouldn’t circumcise your baby girl. In the United States, girls of all ages are protected by federal and state laws from forced genital surgery, whether practiced in medical or non-medical settings, and regardless of the religious or cultural preferences of their parents. There is no ethical rationale for distinguishing between female and male genital alteration. If it is wrong to remove part of a baby girl’s healthy genitals, then it is wrong to do the same to those of a baby boy.
Because your baby does not want to be circumcised. Circumcision painfully and permanently alters a baby boy’s genitals, removing healthy, protective, functional tissue from the penis and exposing the child to unnecessary pain and medical risks –for no medical benefit. What do you think your baby boy would say if he could tell you?
Because removing part of a baby’s penis is painful, risky, and harmful. We know babies are sensitive to pain. Many circumcisions are performed with no analgesic, but even when pain control is employed, the pain is not eliminated. As with any surgery, complications can and do occur with circumcision. These include infection, abnormal bleeding, removal of too much skin, loss of all or part of the glans, urinary problems, and even death. All circumcisions result in the loss of the foreskin and its functions, and leave a penile scar.
Because times and attitudes have changed. The circumcision rate in the United States is now below 40% (and much lower in some parts of the country), down from 81% in 1981. More than 60% of all baby boys in the U.S. leave the hospital intact, as more and more parents realize that circumcision is unnecessary and wrong.
Because most medically advanced nations do not circumcise baby boys. People in Europe, Asia and Latin America are often appalled to hear that American doctors and hospitals remove part of a boy’s penis shortly after birth. Approximately 75% of the men in the world are not circumcised and remain intact throughout their lives.
Because caring for and cleaning the foreskin is easy. A natural, intact penis requires no special care, beyond gentle washing while bathing. Later, when the foreskin can be retracted (something that often does not occur until adolescence), a boy can be taught to pull back his foreskin to wash his penis. Forcible retraction of the foreskin results in pain and injury, and should not be done. Read our Foreskin Care flyer for more information.
Because circumcision does not prevent HIV or other diseases. Over the years, the claims that circumcision prevents various diseases have repeatedly been proven to be exaggerated or outright fabrications. Most men in the United States are circumcised, but our STD rates are as high as or higher than those in countries where circumcision is rare.
Because children should be protected from permanent bodily alteration inflicted on them without their consent in the name of culture, religion, profit, or parental preference. Under accepted bioethical principles, parents can consent to surgery on behalf of a child only if it is necessary to protect the child’s life or health. “Routine” circumcision fails this test because it painfully and permanently removes a normal and healthy part of a boy’s penis, does not protect the child’s life or health, and in fact creates new risks. Removing the foreskin is no more justified than removing a finger or any other healthy body part.
Full report: C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health
Purpose/Funding: The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health - based at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan and funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System - is designed to measure major healthcare issues and trends for U.S. children.
Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC (GfK) for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in March 2014 to a randomly selected, stratified group of adults expecting or planning to have a child within the next two years (n=1,516), from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 53 percent among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ±1 to 4 percentage points.
Findings from the U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.
University of Michigan Health System