Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Circumcision or Not?

For a variety of reasons when my son was born we choose not to have him circumcised. At the time we thought we were being fairly progressive putting off the chains of tradition and we had three grandmothers who mainly because of the traumatized feelings they felt watching their sons circumcised were pushing us that direction as well. The first three years were not a problem but the last two we've been battling it out with recurrent foreskin infections. We've taught our son proper hygiene in the bath and when going to the bathroom. My sister often laughs at me because when she comes out to visit she is always hearing me yell, "E pull your foreskin back." Reminders and help are not always enough though. As our son has gotten older he has become more and more resistant to our advice and our meddling with his "personal space". This all came to a head with the recent birth of our third child. While mom was in the hospital and out of commission dad was in charge. Somehow the boy managed to avoid taking a shower for about a week. That is all the bacteria needed. By the time E mentioned that his foreskin was red he was in the mist of a full blown infection. Oral antibiotics had to be procured. Since then we've been particularly vigilant about making sure he bathes everyday but then yesterday he informed me he had another infection. I spoke with the doctor today to try and figure out how such a clean child could possibly be getting another infection. She told me that if by chance he'd not rinsed all the soap from under the foreskin that irritation could have led to another infections. Good grief. So today I left the doctor's with a referral in hand for a urologist. I'm not saying we are going to do anything drastic but we are certainly going to talk it out with someone who knows more than us and weigh all of our options. At this moment I'm kicking myself for not having him circumcised when he was born. Of course circumcision isn't always the peachy path. A friend recently had to take her son in for reconstructive surgery to fix a botched circumcision. Here is something to keep in mind though. Not circumcising your child raises the chances of getting infections 10 times. It makes you wonder what the point of that little piece of skin is.

Just for clarification:
A) My son is one of those lucky kids who has a fully retractable foreskin. We didn't force it back when he was a baby we left it alone, as instructed by the doctor, the same doctor who now tells me he should pull back his foreskin to urinate and when he bathes. We let it do it's own thing, after a while the skin cells just separated out. My guess it the fact that he has a retractable foreskin is the reason for this. The doctor probably doesn't want pee getting in there and staying in between the two separate layers of skin. He is very pro foreskin so I don't think he's trying to sabotage me.
B) While I agree the cleaning regiment is excessive and may have been the cause of the more recent red irritation, the raw meat horribly swollen infection three weeks I'm positive was the result of skipping bathes for a week and a half. Most of his infections have been the direct result of similar situations although never before has he managed to get out of bathing for so long. Keeping under the foreskin clean is something we were told to do by the doctor and is the practice my hubby has been doing for 31 years. He's never had any problems with infections like this. Maybe I'm just the lucky mom to get to deal with it :)

I never knew people felt so passionately about this. Thanks for all the comments and advice on foreskin care.


Nancy said...

I've been reading about FGM recently. So at first when I saw this I was like, "No."

But you're talking about boys...I see...

Nancy said...

I'm pro-male circumcision. Just saying.

Not only is it annoyingly difficult to keep clean for the male, I've heard of some men scheduling themselves for such an operation post-marriage because they keep infecting their wives, too.

I think the few minutes of agony in the doctor's office and then the few weeks of caring for it when they're tiny is worth not having the extra hassle when they're older.

That said, I'm glad we only have girls so far. I'm not really sure how I would handle it.

When my nephew was circumcised, he peed all over the doctor and the doctor was like, "I guess I deserve that."

When my brother (I think it was) was circumcised all the nurses were on strike so my mom had to be the one to assist by holding him still all on her own...she said that was hard.

I don't know, I still think it's worth it...not that I'm slighting you for not having E's done. Just everyone I know of who has chosen not to have it done has chosen to have it done later...not that I know of a ton of people who haven't...anyway...

SammyJr said...

Your cleaning regime is excessive. My boy is intact, almost five, and has never had a problem. We NEVER advise him to retract. He takes a bath every other day and either rinses the outside with the shower or he soaks in the bath. He never uses soap on that area. Retracting to rinse (no soap) is only required when a boy is puberty age. Soap is a major irritant of sensitive genital tissue. Imagine sticking some ivory up inside of your vagina.

Think of the space between the foreskin and the glans as similar to the inside of the vagina. Excessive washing will cause yeast infections and other problems as the natural flora is thrown out of balance. This is most likely what is happening into your son.

When you go to the urologist, insist on a culture of the infected area. Get the appropriate antibiotic or antifungal. Stop the soap all together. Stop the excessive cleaning. Just let him soak in a bath. He'll be fine.

Don't buy into the American circumcision mythology. Intact is a lot easier than what you're making it.

JustaGuy said...

Nancy, it is so kind of you to look after the needs/cares of females, while carelessly taking advantage of the "other" gender. Just because they are male does not change the situation - child (female/male) is required to undergo genital modification determined to be best for them by others.

Isn't it a bit ironic that for FGM it is also the parents (typically the mothers, aunts, grandmothers) that ensure that this continue? I would have thought that someone against FGM would also be sensitive to this issue as well.

Certainly if the individual chooses to alter their genitals, there is not an issue.

As a male, perhaps you would not be so receptive if I indicated that I was pro-female circumcision. What's good for one, should be good for the other.

enithhernandez said...

oh mama, all that excessive cleaning is causing major damage on your boy's foreskin/penis. You are altering his natural flora and antibiotics makes things worse...


"When the tip of the foreskin is red, it is protecting the glans and
urinary opening (meatus). The cause must be determined. Causes include
infrequent diaper changes, bubble baths, chlorinated water (swimming
pools), soap on the foreskin, harsh soap or detergent on diapers or
underwear, antibiotics, and concentrated urine from dehydration."

"Drinking water, soaking in soap-free bath water, bacterial replacement
therapy (liquid Acidophilus culture both ingested and applied to the
foreskin 4-6 times a day), and air will all help healing."

You can buy liquid acidophilus at health food stores. Acidophilus is
what is in some yogurts, and women on antibiotics also benefit from
taking acidophilus to prevent yeast infections.

See also:

Please don't circumcise your boy, amputation is not the answer to it, leave your boy intact and read the info above. My son is intact and has no problems. A simple bath with water will help things to get clean under his foreskin, no need to be retracting in fact, some boys are not fully retractable until after puberty. Retraction is a sexual mechanism. Is like telling your daughter to clean up inside her vagina. Same thing. If you need any more info just let me know I will love to help!

calice said...

My father lived to age 70 with his foreskin fully intact, his father before him lived to age 77 with his foreskin. The normal foreskin does not require retraction until the boy is an adult. No soap should be used. Infections and inflammation are caused by excessive use of soaps and detergents. Plain water is sufficient according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' statement on care of the normal child's penis.

I have 3 healthy intact normal sons, no problems EVER, and now they are ages 11, 22 and 25 years old. THE FORESKIN IS NOT A BIRTH DEFECT!

SammyJr said...

I read your clarification, but I stand by my suggestion to insist on a culture. Your urologist might be a bit less enlightened than your pediatrician and could just suggest an antibiotic and when it fails, a circumcision. If the problem is excess fungus, then an antibiotic won't help or make it worse, hence the absolute need for a culture.

Also, if you are using an antibacterial soap, maybe switch to a normal variety. The foreskin/glans are has its own flora, just like a vagina. If there is too little bacteria, then the fungus takes over. There are even simple ways of replenishing natural bacteria to restore the balance, but I am not too familiar with the details.

Best of luck.

SammyJr said...

I should also add that my boy retracted on his own at 2.5 years old. He'll occasionally retract it on his own in the bath, but usually not. From shared experience with other parents and our own, I don't believe there needs to be any special washing before puberty.

Also, regarding urine, soldiers in the field without access to clean water will clean their penises by pinching the tip of the foreskin, let the urine balloon it, then let it go. The urine is generally sterile and washes out the dirt and anything else that accumulates. Obviously, this procedure isn't appropriate for most people, but it shows that urine really isn't a huge problem.

natural sons said...

Its definitely the soap - america the obsessed clean anti germ nation. We have l0 intact boys in our family and only one incidence with an infection and it was being 'cleaned" .. with soap. My mother said it best "you wouldnt wash a babys mouth out". Anyway Nancy - if you were an Egyptian no man would want you because you are unclean, prone to infections, and look ugly because you are not circumcised. An infibulation is used to keep you "tight" after having babies. They call the labia and clitoris - surplus - useless surplus.
One more vote for natural men - they make love (French lovers, Latin lovers, Spanish lovers Italian lovers) When has anyone referred to an american man that way. You need to watch the film and become very very educated in this area. Times are changing.

Crys said...

I have to say I don't appreciate the Nancy bashing. A good argument should stand on its own without making personal attacks on people who hold a difference of opinion. I think it is safe to say that most Americans and Europeans agree that FGM is not ok regardless of their personal feelings on male circumcision. Please don't argue they are the same thing. Removing the foreskin does not inhibit males ability to have sex, have orgasms, urinate or ejaculate. Depending on the severity of the FGM sexuality and normal reproductive functions can be severally inhibited. There is also no evidence that FGM prevents infection, in fact the opposite seems to be true, meanwhile the CDC and WHO are advising that circumcision be normalized in sub-Sahara Africa because it has been shown to reduce incidence and transmission rates of AIDS and some other sexual transmitted diseases. Finally being the daughter of one of those so called "Spanish lovers" all I have to say is I think that self professed title had a lot more to do with his adulterous behavior than his intact foreskin.

Nancy said...

Thanks Crystal. :)

Who knew people actually felt so passionately about this topic? I seriously didn't until just a few days ago, so I guess my wording of "pro" was a little strong (I suppose my reasons for "pro" mostly are cultural). It's not like I'm running around with scissors demanding to circumcise the "unclean."

As I said, I'm glad we've only had girls and haven't been faced with that decision because we (my husband and I) haven't ever quite come to a conclusion about this.

I've been reading quite a bit about male circumcision recently and while I can see the "anti" point of view, I don't think that the best way to go about educating people is by ripping into them.

I probably shouldn't even risk commenting here again because I'm pregnant and way too emotional right now...but I just wanted to say:

Thank you! to those of you who presented calm, insightful arguments. I found them much more effective and informative than the inflammatory, passion-driven ones.

kami said...

i think either way, it is hard. we had max circumcised and it has been really stressful because of the penile adhesion he developed. i kicked myself over and over for having him circumcised after that happened and thought maybe even in the future i won't have our boys circumcised. i am still indecisive about it especially after reading of your problems. i did recently read an article that talked about not retracting the foreskin and just leaving it be. i don't know much about uncircumcised boys but i hope that you get something figured out! infections are not fun and neither is dealing with this topic with your child - not that it can't be dealt with but you don't want to make it something he becomes sensitive about. that is my worry with max, if he continues to have problems in the future, i don't want it to become something that he gets worried about...does that make sense?