Dr. Pete on Decline in Circumcision Rate

Circumcision Rate Decreases as Awareness of the Benefits Declines

By Dr. Pete

Dr. Pete, Northern Westchester HospitalThe annual rate of newborn circumcision declined some 10% nationally during the time period 1979-2010, according to data just released by the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS).  Regional rates varied, but the national trend showed a decline. This is interesting, and somewhat statistically significant. Unless parents choose to circumcise for religious reasons, newborn circumcision is an elective procedure. It is not routinely performed in many countries today.

Some parents wish for their sons to have the same anatomy as the father. When the anatomy of fathers and sons differs, we don’t see any long term psychological implications. This is mentioned, but it is not a large concern to clinicians as they counsel parents.

As for the recommendations of the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), the policy was updated in 2012 to state that the benefits of newborn circumcision outweigh the risks. The risks include pain, infection, though rare, and bleeding complications, which is also quite uncommon. The benefits include the prevention of urinary tract infections, penile cancer, and transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Overall, this is truly a personal decision for parents to make after weighing all of this information as well as their personal feelings about circumcision for their baby boys. The trend that has been reported likely reflects a decrease in concern regarding the known benefits of circumcision. I am surprised by the trend, because those benefits in today’s world are very important to consider for the safety of our children, especially as they travel into adulthood.

 

Editor’s Note: Peter Richel, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at Northern Westchester Hospital, Mt. Kisco, NY

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