Ask the Surrogacy Experts

Can ask your personal advice, with your two boys did you have them circumcised when born? As our boy is being born in the USA, I think this is the common practice to do there and are there any disadvantages such as infection? Is it painful for the young baby?
— Shelly


Good morning Shelly.

I’m American; my husband is European. We come from two very different cultures when it comes to circumcision. But after talking about it and reading the medical reports, we opted against the procedure.

You’re correct that circumcision is common practice in the US. But even in the US the practice has been declining generally. I read one report that said more than half of US born boys are now left un-circumcised. It’s still an elective procedure — circumcision is not a forgone conclusion in the US. If you’re an overseas Intended Parent, no worries; it can’t be done not without your signed consent.

My opinion… There is some research that suggests that rates of urinary tract infections are higher in boys who are un-circumsised. But looking past the headlines, the difference is really small (1% vs .1% incidence of infections).

In the long term, some research suggests that circumcision can help reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted infections, but so would a bar of soap and an occasional shower. Circumcision is not going to prevent infections, and it’s simply not true that a foreskin means your child’s penis is dirty or unsanitary.

So I don’t think the health arguments really support a surgical procedure. Cultural reasons are another matter — but I’m far too old to succumb to peer pressure. Every male in my family was circumcised, but I chose NOT to circumcise my sons.

There are some possible complications to the surgery itself, including infection and other “botched” surgical outcomes. But the most common “risk” is a reduced sensation or a permanent change in the sensitivity of the head of your child’s penis.

Wow! “Reduced sensation or a permanent change in the sensitivity of the head of your child’s penis.”

Honestly, I didn’t really need any further argument beyond this point. I can imagine some future day when my son comes to me and asks why I elected to desensitize his penis — and try as I might, I can’t really think of a good enough answer. “Sorry son, I just thought that it would be easier than teaching you how to wash yourself thoroughly.”

If the possibility of lost sensitivity and permanent disfigurement is not reason enough to leave your son’s penis untouched, there’s also this… IT HURTS… A LOT.

I read of one Canadian study to see what type of anesthesia was most effective during circumcision. As with any study, they needed a control group that received no anesthesia. The doctors quickly realized that the babies who were not anesthetized were in so much pain that it would be unethical to continue the study. Some babies went into shock, or worse. That type of pain has long-term psychological effects, even if the children don’t remember it later.

We tend to think that newborns are too little to really experience pain, and that if they do experience it, they soon forget it. But research has shown that, indeed, babies do experience pain. According to an article in the Harvard Medical School Blog, repeated painful experiences in the newborn period can lead to both short- and long-term problems with development, emotions, and responses to stress.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently released an updated policy statement on the prevention and management of procedural pain in newborns. Their recommendation to doctors is to lessen the pain newborns experience. The policy statement says that we should be very thoughtful and careful when it comes to choosing to do painful things to babies.

I agree with that, and I trust my future son will appreciate that policy as well.

I hope this is helpful,
— Bill


Didn’t find what you need?

Search our complete library for all the answers…

…or return to the ‘Sensible’ Surrogacy Guide.