Circumcision debate: To cut or not to cut?

Making the decision whether to circumcise your baby is one of those tricky decisions that parents have to make in the first few months of your son’s arrival. While circumcision is not widely carried out in Singapore, there have been some arguments made in favour of it. We take a look at the debate.

The basics of circumcision

Circumcision is the act of surgically removing the foreskin that wraps around the glans of the penis. It is an ancient practice that goes as far back to the Egyptians and the Hebrews.

In Singapore, circumcision is not widely carried out except in the Muslim community. All Muslim boys are circumcised either as babies or at a later age before puberty, as this is a religious requirement. Among the other communities, circumcision is more of a preference.

While circumcision is seen as optional surgery, there are some cases where it is necessary. One example is when your boy suffers from phimosis, which is the inability to retract the foreskin fully, causing painful erections.

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Where can I get circumcision done?

Circumcision can be carried out at the various hospitals or at private clinics. Expect hospitals to charge more for circumcision, typically around $1,000, while having it done at a private clinic can cost as little as $100. Most doctors will advise to carry out circumcision in the early months as it will cause less pain and the healing is faster.

Why circumcise my boy?

Aside from religious reasons, there are health benefits to circumcision. One argument is that the foreskin tends to trap discharge and bacteria, making un-circumcised boys more likely to suffer from urinary tract infections. Parents need to spend more time cleaning the foreskin and teaching their sons to clean themselves.

A South African study done in 2005 also found that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV, although the reasons for this are not well understood yet.

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Arguments against circumcision

If circumcision provides potential health benefits, where’s the downside to doing it? Well, there are also passionate critics who are against circumcision. They argue that you are permanently altering part of your baby’s genitals without him having a say in it.

Another argument against it is that removing the foreskin actually reduces sexual sensitivity. This is because the foreskin protects the penis head from friction and acts as a lubricant. The scar tissue left by circumcision may also cause numbness.

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How should I decide?

Ultimately, your decision will come down to your preference. For many people, that preference may just be cultural. In the States, for example, circumcision is a norm, with 60% of baby boys born in the U.S. being circumcised. If your husband or brother is circumcised, you would probably want your child to be circumcised too.

Whatever your decision, it’s important to bear in mind though that circumcision is surgery that is irreversible. Even if it is minor surgery, you should seek out a reputable clinic and experienced doctor.

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