To circumcise or not to circumcise? That is the question that many parents ask themselves upon the birth of their new baby boy. And lately, many parents — particularly those in Western states — have been choosing not to do it.
Circumcision, or the surgical removal of the penis foreskin, is a religious obligation for infant Jewish boys. It's also a common rite of passage for Muslims boys. In the U.S., the custom became common due to its health benefits — it reduces the risk of urinary tract infections, certain cancers, and sexually transmitted diseases. According to the World Health Organization, about 30 percent of males worldwide ages 15 and older are circumcised.
But the practice has come under fire in recent years and efforts have even been made in some areas — namely San Francisco and Germany — to ban it altogether. Parents are concerned about the trauma endured by the baby with circumcision and also wonder if the procedure is even necessary. Overall, the national rate of circumcision declined from 65 percent in 1979 to 58 percent in 2010, according to a report from the National Center for Health Statistics. The greatest changes were seen regionally. In the West, the percentage of circumcisions fell from 64 percent in 1979 to 40 percent in 2010. It still declined, but was highest in the Midwest at 71 percent in 2010.
The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a statement last August that the health benefits of infant circumcision outweigh the risks of the surgery. But they didn't go so far as to recommend it for all baby boys.
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- Rare circumcision ritual may carry herpes risk, says CDC