Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To Circ or Not to Circ...

Coming out of residency, I never anticipated the number of baby- (as opposed to fetus-) related questions I would get in the course of routine prenatal care.  This came to mind the other day when, for the first time ever, I was asked for advice regarding ear-piercing for a baby girl.  I've always felt like parents of girls got off easy because the biggest issue for those of us destined to have boys is the circumcision question. It comes up at least as often as "who do you recommend as a pediatrician?" 

That said, it's not an easy decision to make, nor should it be.  You are deciding whether or not to do elective surgery on your newborn.  It's a big freaking deal! 

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer on the subject.  Most men who are uncircumcised do just fine; a few require the procedure to be done later for medical reasons, which is requires anesthesia and entails a more painful recovery.  There is now evidence that men who are circumcised contract fewer sexually transmitted infections and are less likely to pass those on to their partners, but, seriously, who wants to think about a newborn's future sex life?  On the flip side, as with any surgical procedure, there's a risk of complications: infections, damage to the tissue, bleeding.

So what do I actually advise?  Look at the guys around you (figuratively, most likely).  You want your son to look like his father and other male relatives and close friends (and their kids)--the ones who are going to shape his idea of what is "normal" for a man during his first few years.

How did we decide what to do?  Exactly that.  The circumcision itself was done by our pediatrician and was no big deal at all.  Much more traumatic for the parents than for the kids.

Will you question decision?  Absolutely!  As you will about every other decision you make as a parent.  Having never cared for a healing circ before, I had no idea what to expect and was hyper-vigilant about complications--any fussiness or hint of redness, I was certain I had made a terrible choice.  First episode of mommy guilt...first of many.

Take home lesson: as a parent, there is little black-and-white.  You use your love and the best information available to make a decision for your child.  And that is ALWAYS the RIGHT decision!

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