photo of a mother and a baby for a Infant Circumcision appointement
October 31, 2023

Parental Decision-Making: Factors Influencing Infant Circumcision

Infant circumcision, or newborn circumcision, boasts a number of advantages, yet the decision to circumcize your child may not be an easy one as it is a highly personal choice, influenced by a variety of factors. These considerations may be medical, cultural, religious, or ethical. In this post, we’ll outline the chief factors that influence parents when it comes to infant circumcision surgery. If you ultimately decide that newborn circumcision is the right choice for your child, learn more about the procedure today.

Medical Factors

A parent’s decision to opt for infant circumcision, or newborn circumcision, is oftentimes influenced by the medical benefits such a procedure offers. Chief among these benefits is:

  1. Reduced Risk of Urinary Tract Infections: According to a number of studies, infant circumcision leads to a lower risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) during the child’s first year of life as opposed to a newborn who abstains from the procedure. This advantage is highly beneficial as UTIs, if left untreated, often result in far more severe complications.
  2. Lesser Risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Studies show that newborn circumcision surgery may decrease the risk of contracting STIs such as HIV, herpes, and syphilis, in adulthood.
  3. Easier to Maintain Good Hygiene: Since infant circumcision results in the lack of a foreskin, it is far easier to clean that area of the penis, making the maintaining of proper hygience less taxing for parents.
  4. Preventing of Phimosis: Phimosis is a condition that renders the foreskin tight and unable to retract over the head of the penis. Newborn circumcision surgery can prevent the onset of such a condition.

Cultural and Religious Factors

While infant circumcision, as discussed above, has proven medical benefits, other factors play a prominent role in the parental decision-making process, none perhaps more so than cultural and religious factors. While certain cultures and religions find newborn circumcision unnecessary or even inadvisable, others strongly favor it. The key cultural and religious factors include the following:

  1. Judaism: A central religious rite in Judaism, infant circumcision is generally performed on a male infant’s eighth day of life. This rite acts as a covenant with God and symbolizes the child’s integration with the Jewish community.
  2. Islam: In Islam, the newborn circumcision operation is considered a Sunnah, or tradition, and is typically performed on male infants. Unlike with Judaism, which decrees that the procedure be performed on the eighth day of a child’s life, the timing may vary across different Muslim communities.
  3. North American Cultural Norms: Influenced by shifting cultural norms and trends, newborn circumcision surgery rates in North America have fluctuated over the years.
  4. Parental and Family Expectations: Parents may choose, or not choose, to opt for infant circumcision independent of cultural or religious precedents, simply to align with the father’s circumcision status, or that of other family members.

Ethical Considerations

A parent considering infant circumcision may ask themselves, “is it ethical to have this procedure performed on my newborn child?” This is a completely natural and valid impulse, as ethical questions about newborn circumcision surgery are common. Furthermore, they are complex. Let’s explore key ethical concerns here:

  1. Bodily Autonomy: Certain individuals are opposed to infant circumcision because they believe it is a person’s right to choose what happens to their body. Since a parent chooses circumcision on behalf of their infant, they feel that child’s right is violated. They would argue that a person should only be circumcised as an adult, when they can make an informed decision about the procedure for themselves. While it is a parent’s perogative to circumcize their infant, it is important for that parent to be comfortable with their decision.
  2. Informed Consent: This point shares a lot in common with the bodily autonomy argument. Since a child cannot make a decision for themselves until a much later age, some feel newborn circumcision surgery should be postponed until the child reaches an age when they can participate in the decision-making process.
  3. Risks and Benefits: Circumcision is always accompanied by a low degree of risk, but risk nonetheless. Some feel it is unethical to put a child’s health at risk, even if the medical benefits of circumcision far outweigh the degree of risk involved. Alternately, one can argue that it is irresponsible not to circumcize an infant, considering the proven medical benefits it offers. So, then, is not circumcizing your child unethical? These are points a parent must carefully consider.

Ethics are relative, therefore ethical decisions vary from person to person. As a parent, it is important to make a decision that you, and you alone, find ethical.

Parental Beliefs and Values

This is yet another crucial factor that influences a parent’s decision about the newborn circumcision operation. Just like the above-mentioned points, parental beliefs and values are highly individualized and may include:

  1. Personal Experiences: Often, a parent’s decision to opt for, or against, infant circumcision is based on their own experience with the procedure. In the likely event that their procedure went smoothly, they’ll choose to have their child circumcized. On the off-chance that their circumcision led to complications, they may not to opt for the newborn circumcision surgery.
  2. Family Influence: It is natural to be influenced by one’s family members, and often this family influence sways a parent one way or the other concerning infanct circumcision.
  3. Education and Information: Often, a parent may rely on secondhand knowledge about newborn circumcision surgery, and make a largely uninformed decision about having their infant circumcized. On the other hand, a parent who thoroughly reasearches the procedure is able to make a far more educated choice about the matter.
  4. Medical Concerns: A parent’s decision concerning infant circumcision may be affected by concerns they have regarding specific medical conditions or family history.
  5. Desire for Conformity: To prevent social stigma, such as in communities where circumcision is commonplace, a parent may choose to have their infant circumcized.

Making an Informed Choice on Infant Circumcision

The decision to opt for infant circumcision is a profoundly personal one, and should never be made lightly. As explored above, the choice is influenced by a myriad of factors: medical, cultural and religious, ethical, and parental and family value-based. To make an informed choice about infant circumcision, consider all of these points. If you’re comfortable moving ahead with the procedure, rest assured that your decision was the right one as it met your personal criteria.

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