Update: This post has been featured as a guest article on the Peaceful Parenting blog...and features a comic. So you almost might as well go there!
Before having my first son, we were presented with the routine decision (at least in the United States) of whether to circumcise him. While we were initially assuming we would, we did some research. We began finding that not only is male infant circumcision almost never medically necessary, but it's not even performed by most of the developed world. Most European countries never began circumcising in the first place. The United Kingdom doesn't pay for it; it's an out-of-pocket expense. The United States is the only secular country which routinely circumcises males.
I can attest to this now, because I worked for six years as a certified nurse aide prior to becoming an RN. I worked with countless uncircumcised men, mostly European immigrants in Chicago: Poles, Serbs, Lithuanians, etc. Younger men and older men. Men who could walk to the bathroom and men who constantly soiled themselves. Men who had indwelling Foley catheters and men who didn't. Men who were impeccably clean and men who were homeless. Men who were healthy and men who were critically ill and severely immunocompromised.
Never once did I encounter an adult male patient who had ever had a medical problem due to being uncircumcised.
Not only that, but during the cleaning of patients, I only ever worked with two nurses (that I remember) who would actually go through the rigamarole of retracting the foreskin, cleaning the glans, and replacing the foreskin. That's what we were taught in CNA and nursing school, but almost everyone would leave it alone. I suspect most people who work with a high uncircumcised population do the same. If it never presents a problem, it's always clean, and you're just causing discomfort, why do it?
In fact, female patients are far more prone to fungal and bacterial genitourinary infections than male patients are—yeast infections, urinary tract infections, abscesses, etc. And we know that this is largely due not only to their shorter urethras, but also to their labial folds—their "excess" skin. Why don't we cut that off? Why isn't female circumcision considered for infection prophylaxis? That's how we think of male circumcision. Except the reality is that, as with male patients, the benefit of circumcision would be minimal, because the number of serious complications of letting women stay "uncircumcised" is extremely minor.
So as it stands, we have two boys who are uncircumcised. One's almost five years old and the other's nearly three. They've never had a problem. During diapering they required less care and bother than our girls did. And now, during bathing, we don't retract or mess with it.
They're clean. They're fine. I suspect that someday they'll be like my patients were: ninety years old and uncircumcised—with no regrets.
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