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American Women's Club of Hamburg

To Circumcise or Leave It Be

Jennifer M discusses the myths about circumcision. Originally published in Currents, Children's Corner Column, March 2001.

Congratulations! It's a . . . BOY!

De-mystifying the intact penis:

So you have given birth to a baby boy here in Hamburg and discovered that routine circumcision of baby boys is not the rule? Your son's intact penis is nothing to fear or worry about, and I hope this article will help disprove some common myths about uncircumcised boys and make you grateful that the German medical system is more progressive than the American one, at least concerning this issue.

Routine circumsicion of baby boys has become so much of a habit in American culture that people, doctors and parents alike, have forgotten that the foreskin of the penis is a perfectly normal part of the body and has a specific function and, therefore, is 99 per cent of the time in no need of surgical removal.


  • Myth No. 1: Your baby's foreskin harbors germs and bacteria and makes it impossible to keep the penis clean. This is the exact opposite of the truth because this is the main function of the foreskin -- to protect the glans, or head of the penis, from exposure to dirt and germs. In addition, it will keep the glans soft, moist, warm and safe throughout your baby's life.

  • Myth No. 2: You should retract the foreskin and clean the head of the penis every day with soap and water. NEVER retract the foreskin of your baby's penis, nor let anyone else attempt this painful and potentially damaging procedure. Your baby's foreskin will naturally begin retracting around puberty, when hormones tell the body to get busy. There is no preset time by which the foreskin must be retractable. Until this time, the foreskin will remain attached to the glans to keep it protected and to keep it clean. And NEVER use soap to wash the inner foreskin; it is a mucous membrane and, just like the inside of your eyelid, you would never use soap there!

  • Myth No. 3: If your baby develops a rash or infection of the foreskin, it must be amputated. You should be thankful that the foreskin is present or the rash or infection would be on the glans instead of the foreskin. Infection is no reason to amputate a body part.

  • Myth No. 4: Babies do not feel pain so you may as well have the baby circumcised at birth rather than when he gets older and has to suffer. This is based on the false assumption that babies cannot feel pain. Studies have shown that not only can babies see, hear, taste, smell and feel, but also that babies sense pain even more acutely than adults. Any adult undergoing a circumcision would receive anesthesia and postoperative relief; most routine hosptial circumcisions in the United States, however, provide neither of these for a baby undergoing the same procedure.

  • Myth No. 5: Hospitals are allowed to circumcise your baby when he is hospitalized for another surgical procedure. Whenever your uncircumcised baby boy is hospitalized for a surgical procedure, be sure to make it perfectly clear to all doctors, nurses, and other staff involved that your child is NOT to be circumcised under any circumstances. Be sure to write "NO CIRCUMCISION" on your admittance paperwork to protect your legal recourse in case they disregard your wishes.

You should look upon the fact that your baby boy born in Hamburg has experienced a unique twist of fate and consider it a blessing that his foreskin was saved from unnecessary amputation. Most body parts are only removed if they threaten the survival of the entire body. Cutting off part of the penis is an extreme measure and should be reserved for extreme circumstances, according to Dr. Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH in Mothering Magazine.

The intact penis requires no special care so there is no need to worry about it. The best advice is to LEAVE IT ALONE. Most importantly, do not let anyone try to retract the foreskin before it naturally retracts itself or you might cause your baby immense pain and suffering. Your baby's foreskin will take care of itself and of your baby's penis his entire life.

[Web Editor's Note: For an alternate discussion of Circumcision issues, see Susan L's section on the topic in her Having a Baby in Hamburg series, Circumcision.]



Information for this article was taken from "Protecting Your Uncircumcised Son" Mothering, No. 103, Nov/Dec 2000, pp.41-47.

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