[If you do not see a blue menu bar on the right, click here. You are at "Newborn Bliss?/Other Countries".]

The practice of social (non-religious and non-medically-indicated) circumcision is uniquely North-American. Although the practice, historically, has been predominantly and English-speaking countries phenomenon- including New Zealand and Australia-,worldwide, the number of total circumcisions is about 15%. Countries like Scandinavia, Switzerland, England, Germany, Japan & Finland have almost a non-existant circumcised population. Canada's percentage of neonatal circumcisions is closer to the U.S.'s, but still much lower. In the United States, the average of newborn circumcision is about 60%, but individual areas vary- the West Coast being about 35%, and the Midwest being about 80%, for example. Moreover, between 1993 and 1998, the rate decreased 11 percent.

CIRCUMCISION IN THE UNITED STATES Prevalence, Prophylactic Effects, and Sexual Practice
-JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, Volume 277, Number 13: Pages 1052-1057, April 2, 1997.


"Well, what we do is never to have our boys circumcised unless it is for religious reasons or they have some problem with their foreskins that necessitates circumcision. I am a mother of 3 boys and I could not imagine even thinking about having them circumcised when they were babies. What on earth for? Something I've often wondered about is the sexual side of circumsion. Being a woman I can't know, but I would guess that a man's pleasure is somewhat lessened, although having had it done as a babe, he would not be able to compare. As a woman, having had both circumsized and uncircumsized lovers, I will without a doubt say that a "natural" is more fun. The few female friends I have discussed this with agree. We think it's strange and unnatural to consider snipping off bits of a little baby's penis. To anyone out there considering it, I would say, don't do it. Best wishes from Scandanavia"-- Allou

"Circumcision: Not An Option. Let me explain myself further...also let me give you the european stand point on this issue. To perform or not to perform circumcision is not an option here....what I mean, there is no question which way to go.....not to circumcise is the logical answer and never is an issue unless for religious reasons. The whole act itself is looked at as either a religious ritual or a third world tribal practice. [It] stuns Europeans all the time when they find out that Americans actually choose to do this, and what stuns them even more are the reasons for choosing circumcision. I guess I just always took it for granted that my sons intact penis was nothing special, just like keeping all his fingers or other parts of his body intact. I guess, even in the most sophisticated societies, witch burning scenerios can still take place. I am sorry if this sounds so harsh, but coming from this side of the world, that is how it is looked at. I am glad to see that evolution is taking place..in the way that people are becoming more informed about this unneeded, barbaric practice." --Hollieann (1999)

"Hi....I have an 18 month old son who isn't circumcized..quite frankly I don't see the point because I'm from Holland where it's an exeption and not the rule to circumcise. It never even crossed my mind!!!

"When we were expecting 5 yrs ago we were asked if we wanted the procedure done. My husband asked 'why?' and we were stunned at the reasons we were given. My ultimate favorite will have to be that if we didn't my son would be different and teased in school. We had a girl and the problem went on the back burner until we were expecting our son. We had it put in my chart that our son would not get the procedure done. The nurse remarked the second morning that he was so happy and content. She was changing his diaper and only then noticed he was "intact", she smiled and said " Ah! there is the reason why. Good for him!". It made my day, as I was expecting the standard remark that I 'had to' have it done." --Tiggerr

"But I have to tell you, I grew up in a non-circumcizing country (Norway) and I have never heard of all these problems you are referring to. I just don't understand how you think Nature could be that wrong..." --Benzn

"I'm German and we don't cut our boys for no good reason either. Sometimes I really don't know if I should laugh about or cry because of how ignorant some people chose to be." --missy_nicole_77

The summer of 1998, I watched a childbirth video from 1985. They showed 14 different deliveries-- about œ boys and œ girls. All the mothers and fathers looked absolutely in heaven: blissful and in awe of their newest family member. This in itself did not amaze me. How else should it be? That's how it was for me. Then the thought came to me that this was 1985-- a time when about 80 percent of baby boys were circumcised at birth in the United States. How did the film-makers- and the parents, for that matter- make the transition between this new-life euphoria to the stark contrast which was to -statistically, at least- happen to the male babies 24 hours later? There was no mention of it; to someone unaware of circumcision, they might think that the boys in the video had gone home from the hospital looking just like they did when they were born. Even the popular television birth shows A Baby Story and Birth Day do not mention it outside of a religious context, although they mention almost every other aspect surrounding the child's birth.

Circumcision is the expected social norm in America, but one which no one likes to talk about. It's just another part of being born- another "check mark" on the discharge sheet: 1. Baby is born 2. Clamp the cord 3. Clean him up 4. Do the "heel-prick" (PKU) test 5. Give him a shot or two 6. Cut his penis. 7. Send him home. (In fact, care of the newly-circumcised penis is often compared by new parents to caring for the umbilical cord in the first weeks of life because of this, even though there are some obvious differences.)

"I'm an American who had the privledge of living abroad in the UK for 3 years. Now, I've always been an open-minded, fairly aware individual, but living in the UK I really learned how Americo-centric I was. It's truly hard not to be, because it's ingrained in our culture, and our education. But, it's really helpful to try to be aware of that when you are thinking and talking about other countries and their culture . . . because, believe it or not, we can learn A LOT from other people!

"Anyway, I learned a lot about circ when my son was born in the UK. He was born at home (which, is also a wonderful and more common option overseas). Not having really thought too much about circ beforehand, we started asking our midwife and GP (doctor) about it, and were met with a look of horror, followed closely by a brief explanation that its really an uneccessary outdated procedure that isn't done anymore, etc., followed by an explanation stated outloud, but I think it was for their own benefit ... something about 'Well, I forgot that it's a cultural thing American's do.' We spoke to our European friends about it and were met with similar responses. We finally did the research, and realised what that what we had grown up learning and believing in the US really had little bearing on reality regarding circs.

"I'm so greatful we had that cultural reality check.

"America is the last industrialized country to move toward leaving our son's whole. I truly believe we will come around and follow suit from our European counterparts . . . It's already starting to happen." -Julie

In the general United States population, the prevailing attitude toward circumcision -even in spite of the current controversy surrounding it- is one of non-chalance and even apathy. Parents will lots of times say that their doctor recommended it, yet every doctor I spoke to at a recent neonatal conference at a major teaching university hospital says that they do it "because the parents want it"; it is to save the parents going to someone else and/or because they feel that they "do good ones". The "blame" gets shifted, and through this, babies continue to be circumcised. It is a cultural force which is very strong.

"I clearly stated on my intake forms that if my baby was a boy, I didn't want him circumcised. Even so the pediatrician on call showed up on the day of our discharge, introduced himself, and informed me that he was there to circumcise my son. I sent him packing. Then I had a nurse approach me once again prior to discharge, and the nurse practitoner brought it up yet again at my son's check up two days after discharge. It is so presumptuous of nurses, doctors, etc. to second-guess a choice to leave a baby intact."-- Julie

"I know how hard my wife and I had to fight, to keep our boys intact at birth, in 1973 and 1979 in the US. The nurses tried to trick her by getting her to sign when she was still doped by anasthesia, and when she was distracted by company, with a 'You forgot to sign this paper'. They were devious. They told me, 'too bad you got washed and suited up to see your boy, he's about to get circumcised' when we had never signed the paper, didn't want it done, and I had just witnessed a circumcision in the other room. I will never forget that boy's screams. My heart was beating out of my chest. I grabbed my boy and held him, so no one would do it to him." --Tommy (7/2000)

Even with 40% of newborns in the U.S. leaving the hospital not circumcised, birth is not as easy and peaceful a transition for the parents (though it is relatively peaceful for the boy who "escaped his circumcision"). Parents are asked by doctors and nurses alike if they are "sure" that they don't want their son circumcised. They are argued with by medical professionals on their rationales for not having it done, yet these same doctors and nurses are forbidden to say anything against the procedure to the parents. Conversely, the parents' rationale for having it done -the great majority of which are not medical reasons- are never asked, nevermind questioned. Interestingly, when a parent has answered "no" to the question of circumcision, nurses and other hospital staff will congratulate them, only then confiding in its innecessity or in its pain, etc., Even so, parents are sometimes coerced or tricked into signing the consent form. Sometimes a parent mistakenly signs the consent form because it is in a pile of other forms to fill out or sign- usually at the hospital, but sometimes at a prenatal appointment! Incredibly, boys have been taken to be circumcised even when the parents have said no...

"My name is Jennifer and I have 3 children, Catherine who is 6, Maree who is 2 and Joseph who is 6 days old and intact! I've been reading all the posts here and feel pretty informed. We have met with some resistance from family but I don't really care. What I do find disturbing is what happened in the hospital. My labor and delivery was fantastic, completely natural, no IV, only on the monitor for about 10 minutes every hour or so. The whole staff was very supportive. I guess that's why what happened afterwards really surprised me. Joseph was born at 7:44pm. The next morning my OB stopped in at 6:30 to check on me. We chatted for a minute (I was half asleep) and then she said "I'm off to circumscise your son." That woke me right up! I told her we were not circumscising (as I told them when I was admitted). She was surprised because the ladies in the nursery had him on the schedule! Unbelievable. For the next day and a half until we went home, it seemed that everyone who looked at him (nurses, pediatrician, even the lactation consultant) would mention something like "Oh, when he's circ'd later" or on the day we were going home "I guess you'll be leaving after the circ". Gee whiz! It was getting annoying. One lactation consultant asked my why we weren't doing it. I simply said 'We don't want to'. The other lactation consultant told my son he was very lucky to have parents who loved him so much. One normal voice out of the whole bunch!" --Jennifer

This is how automatic circumcision has become in our culture. It is a very intruiging sociological phenomenon: in short, babies were automatically "done" in hospitals starting around WWI and WWII continuing for about the next 30 years, the result of which has been that the circumcised penis has became not only normal, but "natural". To change 60 years of this powerful social momentum is obviously hard to do; what seems a simple "yes or no" becomes an unfortunate battleground between parent and doctor.

"I am a lactation consultant, and about 98% of the time we have a hard time getting boys to nurse the day they are circumcised...in fact, they won't even wake up! They are frequently almost comatose! Why do you think this is? I believe that they are traumatized, and are shutting the world out because of it...and avoiding the pain...." --Allissa

"Congratulations on the birth of your son! I'm glad to hear that everything went smoothly with the hospital and drs about your decision for "no circ."

"When I gave birth to our son on 9-11-2001 in Ohio, my ob-gyn asked if we were going to have him circ'd. We said, "NO." (Note: The baby stayed in my room with me during our entire hospital stay and was never out of sight of either me, my dh or one of my parents). When our son was 1 day old, another ob-gyn from my drs shared practice came into my room while I was walking around the hospital and asked my father if our son was to be circ'd. My father said he didn't believe so and the doc said he'd come back and talk to me. He did. I told him, "NO. We don't want our son circ'd. Personally, I believe it's a barbaric and unnecessary." The dr replied, "I can't disagree with you about that."

"Day 3 (The final day of our stay -- I had a scheduled c-section) Yet another ob-gyn in my dr's practice stopped by to ask if we wanted our son circ'd. "NO!" I told him.

"My pediatrician stopped by the hospital to do the usual new infant tests on our son and give him a check up. When asked about circ's he told me about 90% of the male infants in our area are circumcised (in the Midwest region) but he sees both circ'd and intact boys in his practice and it's a choice left up to the parents. Every doctor I spoke with about circ's told me basically the same thing -- it's mainly done for cleanliness and aesthetics and it's deemed MEDICALLY UNNECESSARY by the American Association of Pediatrics.

"Now, imagine my surprise, after telling not 1 but 3 different physicians in the same practice that we did NOT want our son circ'd, when I found out my insurance company had been billed for the procedure!!!!!!! For anyone interested, for $157 we could have had our son's foreskin brutally mutilated! NO THANK YOU!

"I just thank God every day that our daughter was born first (12-11-89) because if she would have been a boy, I wouldn't have given it a second thought BACK THEN to having the circ done. Ignorance, I've discovered, is a very poor teacher! 11yrs 9 mths and lots of research later, our son remains intact." --Sandy

"I realize this is anecdotal, but it's interesting. When I had my second child, a daughter, she was difficult to breastfeed in the hospital because she was such a sleepyhead. I remarked on this problem to a nurse and she readily assured me that 'all of the circumcised babies have this problem and it will get better in the next couple of days or so'. After clearing with the nurse why this certainly wasn't Isabel's problem, I casually asked her what type of side effects did circumcision sometimes cause. She looked at me stunned as if I had asked her a forbidden question and walked out without a response. Maybe it was the hormones or something, but I started to feel like I was in a X-files episode.

"When I had my son two years prior, the nurses (at the same hospital) brought the consent form to me TWICE 'to make sure I hadn't changed my mind'. When I asked (the second time they brought the form) what was the medical benefit of circumcision, they just drew a big red X on the form without answering my question. I asked why they did that and they replied, "We don't want to accidently circumcise him." Then they left.

"Can you hear the 'Twilight Zone' theme just about now?

"What is going on here?"-- Bevin, mother of two.

"We live in the Milwaukee area, and the rate here is at least 90%. I had both boys at one of the older not with it hospitals. I have to say that they were really great about our choice. We never had any problems. Both times they put a piece of tape on their bassinets that in very big letters said 'NO CIRC'. We did not have rooming in, but they were with me most of the time. I liked this big sign on there because when they were in the nursery anyone looking at the babies would see this. I had hopes that it just may change some minds seeing that not all boys were being cut.

"When we had the first 6 years tomorrow I had a c-section. When they took him from me, still in the OR I remember yelling 'do not circ'. I was so afraid it would be done right away. After that a nurse that had been present at the birth came to me to tell me her 13 yr old was also intact. When one of the doctors came in to check me on about my 4th day there, she asked if he had been circed yet. I replied that he would not be, and she said "Good, we all think its silly anyway". Yet they never discussed this in any of my monthly visits.

"This hospital was really good about it. Not one person ever questioned us, or made us feel as we were wrong. Of course when the OB bill came we were charged $150 for the circ. I called and said that he was not done, and the women asked if I was sure!! Yeah right I really didn't know. It is so common here that it is automatically billed for every male birth. Sad.

"I had my second 4 years later. Same hospital, different doctor. Same thing, no hassles. Same tape on the bassinet. Same decision. I guess we were just lucky."-- Andrea

"When I filled out paperwork for the birthing unit I wrote no circ. on it. I was hospitalized for a week before I had him due to Toxemia. Every time a new nurse came on shift shewould go over it with me. Whenever the circ. came up I got an eye roll, or a comment "are you sure about this?" the worst one nurse Racthett type asked 3 times during going over the paperwork and her final comment was "You can still change your mind! We'll talk more later." I said "I already discussed it with DR. ---, he 's opposed to it." so she did her immature sigh and stomped her witchy-poo legs out of my room! Then I was taken to another hospital, same deal there! When I was able to go visit the NICU 2 days after delivery. Except one nurse I was asked every time I went in! It took alot to grab my bearings and say "I've done my research and I'm opposed." ect. I really wanted to yell "He's got a tube in his nose to feed him, in an incubator, apnea monitor, oxygen thing on his toe, loaded up with mag. sulfate, can't digest more than 5 cc's at a time, and refusing to nurse! He doesn't need his 'weenie wacked' Understand?!!"-- Theresa

"We were asked repeatedly if/when we were having Sean circed. The birthplan said NO. There was a sign on his bassinet (he roomed in, but when we walked outside, we left him in the nursery) that said NO. We had spoken to all of the nurses in contact with him. My doctor knew NO. But we were STILL asked. Repeatedly. We were looked at like we were freaks. When his ped's partner came in to check him before release, he asked, 'Are you going to circumcise him?' We practically shouted 'NO!' (we were VERY fed up with having to say it). He smiled and said, 'Good for him!'"-- Kris

"About a month later, our son was born. The day before we were released from the hospital, the doctor (not my own, as he was on vacation and missed my delivery) walked into the room for his morning check of the baby. During the conversations, he very casually stated, 'I'll be doing his circumcision later this afternoon'. My husband and I said to him, almost in unison, 'But we DON'T WANT him circumcised!' The doctor was clearly surprised to hear this-- even though he then went on to mention that his own sons are not circumcised."-- Judy Phillips

"I had a c-section in a Jewish hospital by a Jewish resident-- they were about to circ him right there, when we told them not to (should have read our birth plan a little better), The dr. proceeds to argue with me about how its better for children, and lowers his risk of cancer, yadda yadda yadda... talk about insensitive!!!! I'm lying on the operating table, in massive pain, might I add, because the drugs were wearing off, I'm not even stitched up and my son is less that 10 minutes old, and they are arguing with me about circumcision-- like it can't WAIT?!?!? I told him it was against our religion. We practice an Earth based religion where nature is revered; the natural state of anything is preferred (not by doctrine, but by principle). That put an end to the argument; but I thought it was of bad taste to argue with me there."-- TBard

"That is something I did know however. My oldest is almost 11 and I knew then that it was wrong. (None of my 4 boys are circ'd.) They almost did circ him. We caught him just in time-- caught them rather. The next time we had a boy my husband wrote in magic marker "NO circ" on the tee shirt he was wearing. Hope a boy got that shirt next time it was used.

"I was suspected of being a carrier if hemophilia while pregnant with my first. So, my ob knew that I wouldn't be circing...too dangerous with hemophilia. But the nurse who came and got him, and the OB who was circing that day didn't know my history. Yeah, the people who were used to caring for me [knew I didn't want him to be circumcised], but it was people that had not met me. It was just time to do the circs, and they were rounding up the boys. I was in my room. I didn't get to keep him much, he was early and although he was fine, he had a hard time maintaining his temp., so it was not unusual for them to come and get him [from my room].

"[When we went to get him from the nursery,] they had him in line. He wasn't on the circumstraint yet. I didn't sign anything; I think they were just so used to doing all the boys that they just included mine too. [When they came and got him for his circumcision, I thought it was] just time to take him back to the nursery; I was young, I didn't know any better. But when we saw him laying in the isolete [in the nursery] and no one was doing anything to him....like temp checks or rounds, and he wasn't under the heat lights we asked for him back. The nurse told us that he hadn't been circ'ed yet, it would be about 30 minutes before they got to him. So it wasn't as close as it could have been, but it could have been worse. If we had not gone to see him..... She [the nurse] was a bit surprised [that we didn't want him circumcised], but we got him. She said she didn't realize...that was really scarey that she didn't realize. I don't know if they would have double checked or not before doing it."-- Tina (3/99)

"This reminds me.. With Curtis my pediatrician was out the day after he was born. The on-call pediatrician came to my room to go over the going home things in case I got to leave. But he starts with this... 'I am having trouble finding the right size bell for your son, his skin is way back on the head and I dont want to take too much off" I SCREAM!! 'DO NOT TOUCH MY CHILD!!' I then asked him if he had even read Curtis chart!! He said yes. I said well he is not to be circumcised! He said, 'OH, thank goodness I came by here first, I had nurses getting things ready.'

"Curtis roomed in with me and from then on I went with him when he had to go up to the nursey for anything. MAKE sure to tell every nurse that comes for your baby what you want and dont want.

"Before we left the hospital I had at least two nurses ask me why we did not want him circumcised. I think they had all been talking about us after they heard me scream at the doctor."-- Angela