We're just wondering, should we circumcise our son or not? -Carrie and Dianne from Toronto, Canada
First up, let me congratulate you both, that's fantastic news, but also let me welcome you to parenthood. 'Cause when you're a parent, you know, it's all about making difficult decisions. The easy ones don't ask you about.
I'm gonna give you a little bit of the anatomy of what's goin' on here. All right. So, we, we got a sock here, it's a high-tech, uh, example of what the, the penis is gonna look like when that little boy comes down the chute. Here's the tip right here and you've got this little foreskin area right there. And this - when normally the penis is erect will show the tip of the penis, with the, the opening here of the urethra. But when you roll over the foreskin, it closes it over completely. Do you see that? Now when you close it over you open up a space here, which normally when it's erect is open, but they could close again.
So, you need to clean this area out while the penis is relaxed. Pull the skin over it and then clean this area, and then pull it back... and clean in here as well. Now that's a little bit a hygiene issue. When you circumcise the penis you take that out. That's a big deal, because if that area is able to hold on to fluids, for example, a virus, it could pass that virus on to other people. So, it's linked to sexually transmitted diseases if you have a foreskin. It's also linked to the HIV virus.
Does it hurt?
The child does feel pain, but they don't remember that they feel pain. Little babies will feel pain. But I can tell ya, a hundred percent of little babies are opposed to circumcision, okay? 'Cause who wants to go through that if you don't have to. So the big question you gotta deal with is now once you're circumcised, the tip of the penis is always exposed. And when the tip of the penis is exposed, it's the richest place for nerve fibers, they're continually rubbing things around them; they're not protected by the foreskin anymore. And when that happens....you actually lose some of that sensation. So, on the pro side of having a circumcision, you got the benefit of avoiding sexually transmitted illnesses, and you have the benefit that it could look like the dad, which in your case doesn't matter. But culturally there are reasons why we circumcise as well: you don't want the child to look different. I think in, in America, less and less people are doing circumcisions. So I don't let that influence my decisions when I give advice. On the other side of the cons, you lose some of the sensitivity and it's a little disfiguring. So, let me give you some advice that's pretty concrete on this. The most important decision for you to make is to make one before the baby is born. Because when that child comes down the chute at you, there's this emotional craziness, this jagged array of feelings you're gonna have. You don't wanna have to decide a baby's name - 'cause you make mistaken (chuckles) then. You don't wanna have to decide if you're gonna circumcise, 'cause it's gonna change that child's life for the rest of the year...there is no clear medical consensus. Even the major medical societies aren't weighing in on this.
I personally feel that if you're born with something, it's probably there for a reason. So, I would lean against doing much about it, but let me be clear about something. The data is coming in about sexually transmitted diseases, that HIV, much of it from Africa, if that continues to be as strong as it is, and what we really wanna do is focus on how to clean the foreskin, that's why I showed you that. 'Cause I want the guys out there who are not circumcised, to realize, you have an obligation to make sure that space is clean, especially if you're sexually active. 'Cause you can pass that on to women, and that's linked to cervical cancer and lots of other ailments you don't wanna be responsible for. I just wanna hear your thought, 'cause, listen, this is a very precious moment in your life.
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