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Are you pregnant with a boy, and debating whether or not to have your son circumcised after he is born? Welcome to a whole new world a world that is terribly complicated and controversial, no matter what you end up deciding.

The choice is yours, legally speaking, but what else should you know? 

Medical reasons to circumsize the facts

Until recently, most newborn boys in the United States were circumcised soon after birth without much consideration. It was widely assumed that circumcision offered boys the best possible hygienic conditions. Across the pond in England, circumcision was part of the culture too, until about five decades ago.

On the European mainland, circumcision remained something that was carried out for religious reasons. These days, the World Health Organization is in favor of circumcision, mainly because there is evidence to suggest that removing the foreskin reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV transmission by quite a bit 60 percent actually, the WHO says. The American Academy of Pediatrics is also in favor or routine newborn circumcision. They support the practice enough to recommend that the procedure is available to baby boys through social healthcare programs such as Medicaid, but not enough to strongly recommend it for every single newborn boy.

In fact, the AAP says that parents should make the decision within their own religious, social and ethical contexts. The British National Health Service sees circumcision as a possible solution to medical problems such as phimosis, but believes that other options should be explored first. Other European healthcare organizations are often strongly opposed to the procedure, except when there is a true medical need that cannot be resolved by other means. So, why would you choose to circumcise your newborn boy? Decreased incidence of urinary tract infections in the first year of life, a reduced risk of contracting and spreading HIV and HPV, prevention of penile cancer in men and cervical cancer in their partners, and better personal hygiene are the main medical reasons for which parents and their doctors choose to circumcise.

What's wrong with circumcision?

You only need to spend a few minutes on the internet to realize that there are people who are very strongly opposed to circumcision. These people believe that there is not enough evidence to support the proponents' claims that the practice has real medical benefits. They even believe that evidence has deliberately been concocted by doctors whose income depends on the practice's continuation. Above all, anti-circumcision campaigners believe that it is wrong to carry an unnecessary medical intervention out on a person who does not have the ability to consent or refuse.

Essentially, circumcision is seen as a form of genital mutilation. Anti-circumcision campaigners are extremely passionate and cruise the internet attacking anyone who says anyone who says anything that could be seen as being mildly pro-circumcision. I dislike their tone, and personally do not believe that doctors falsify evidence to be able to continue doing something that they agree is harmful. I believe there are indeed some mild medical benefits in favor of the practice and that they should be taken into account when deciding whether or not to circumcise a baby boy. However, the anti-circumcision campaigners definitely have valid arguments. Indeed, there are circumcised men on the internet who are extremely angry that the procedure was forced upon them as a baby, and who would prefer to have a foreskin. It's good to note that foreskins are not just redundant bits of skin; they do actually serve a purpose.

The foreskin is very sensitive and contains many nerve endings, protects the glans (skin underneath the foreskin) from damage, and helps sexual intercourse to function. The hygiene argument in favor of circumcision can easily be dismissed. All parents need to do is teach their sons to keep their private parts clean. A shower that includes retracting the foreskin to wash underneath it does the trick. Circumcision can also go wrong, in some cases. When that happens, long-term damage can be caused. See LA boy gets compensation for botched circumcision for one example.