“Will he be teased in the locker room?”

I’m pregnant and my husband and I are the kind of people that just need to know if it’s a boy or a girl. I suppose we are impatient planners. To us, not knowing what day our baby will be born, how big he will be and who he looks like are enough fun surprises for us!

We are having a boy, and the questions have started about whether we will keep his penis intact or circumcise him. For many parents of boys in North America, it’s the first challenging parenting decision they’ll make.

Father kissing baby boyIn my line of work, I’ve had all sorts of questions from parents of brand new baby boys:

“If I’m circumcised and he isn’t, how would he feel to look different from Daddy?”

“Will he be teased in the locker room?”

There are many reasons why a couple might decide to circumcise their infant son, but in my experience, it seems the two most common reasons are 1) Whether Dad was circumcised; 2) Religion. But of course, Dads want to know – if we decide one way or another, will my son be “different”?

How many boys are being circumcised today?

The answer depends on where you live. Not just what country but what province you live in. During 2006-2007 in Ontario, about 43% of boys born that year were circumcised while only 7% of baby boys in Nova Scotia were circumcised. Overall, 32% of baby boys were circumcised in Canada that year, and the numbers have been slowly declining over the years.

As for whether it’s okay for your son’s penis to remain intact when yours (or your partner’s) was circumcised, well, I can’t really help you with that. I do know of a grown friend of mine whose penis was intact and his father was circumcised (it was one of those “philosophical” late-night debate with friends in residence years ago, okay?) and he said it never bothered him. His Dad just explained to him that they realized the benefits of keeping the foreskin and he never thought about it again.

The Canadian Pediatric Society does not recommend routine circumcision, which is why provincial health plans do not cover the procedure. There are risks and benefits to keeping the penis intact and to circumcision.  For a breakdown of the risks and benefits of the circumcision procedure and how to care for an intact and circumcised penis, the Canadian Pediatric Society has great information on their Caring For Kids page. There is no need to rush into a decision. If you are undecided or if you have any questions, talk to your baby’s health care provider.

Now, I won’t share with you whether my husband is intact or not, and whether or not we have chosen to circumcise our son-to-be (that’s just TMI and besides, a little privacy would be nice!). Circumcision is an incredibly personal choice, and sadly, one that has created a lot of online wars and guilt-tripping over social media. What is important, however, is that every new parent of a boy be given a chance to ask their questions and make an informed decision they are comfortable with.

If you have any questions or concerns about circumcising or not circumcising, there are many ways to connect with one of us:

  • Leave us a comment below
  • Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
  • Email us at haltonparents@halton.ca
  • Call  HaltonParents by dialing 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

About Andrea Scott RN

I’m a public health nurse with the HaltonParents team – you’ll find me blogging, tweeting and answering emails. I’ve been working for the Halton Region Health Department since 2006 and my focus has been on supporting parents with babies and little kids. I have two little ones myself, “Pumpkin” and “Monkey” who give me plenty to blog about! :)
This entry was posted in Babies, Parenting, Physical Health, Pregnancy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to “Will he be teased in the locker room?”

  1. Kraszewski, Tamara says:

    Hi Andrea,

    Well done! You did not take an extreme point of view but provided current info for the new parent and made it interesting.

    Tamara Kraszewski, RN, BScN
    Public Health Nurse

  2. Francis Roy says:

    Thank you for your article. In response to someone who may ask the the question “Will he be teased in the locker room?”, I offer a counter-question.

    “Are you willing to permanently remove a piece of a baby boy’s anatomy without fully understanding the effects of circumcision in order to spare him from being teased a few times?”

    I offer the following to help punctuate my question.

  3. wasfou says:

    I think that circumcision was far more common in our generation than it is in the current (as mentioned in your post, numbers and proportions have been declining steadily over the years). The question down the line might be if they’ll be teased in the locker room if they ARE circumcised. Either way it shouldn’t happen, but we currently assumed a child would be teased if not circumcised. Our societal/cultural realities may not be our children’s (just as ours aren’t our parents’), and who are we to dictate those?

    Thank you for the post. It is indeed refreshing to not have a dictatorial mommy argument, but just a conversation on societal norms in general.

    • Francis Roy says:

      “The question down the line might be if they’ll be teased in the locker room if they ARE circumcised.”

      Astute observation. High school social circles are not known sensitivity. If a boy is not teased about the state of his penis, he’ll be teased, or even bullied about his clothes, hairstyle, manner of speech, musical or personal preferences, or, frankly, anything that is a convenient target at the moment. The solution is not amputation of a body part, but teaching him valuable social skills, including but not limited to: empathy, verbal skills, understanding of social dynamics and the genuine assessment of his and others character, merit and valuable contributions shared with and among his peer group.

  4. Annie says:

    As a mother of a little boy age 3 who is intact I often wonder if we made the best choice for him. I was swayed from midwives opinions but ultimately I feel by leaving him intact we made the right choice.

  5. Flav says:

    I was dating a guy in university and he had to get circumcised at age 19 because his foreskin started growing over. I remember how painful it was for him at that age, it would have been better as a baby. The doctor said it was uncommon but definitely not as rare of an occurrence as people seem to think.

    • Francis Roy says:

      I was dating a guy in university and he had to get circumcised at age 19 because his foreskin started growing over. I remember how painful it was for him at that age, it would have been better as a baby. The doctor said it was uncommon but definitely not as rare of an occurrence as people seem to think.Flav

      While I appreciate your empathy for him (it’s a refreshing change), we don’t actually know if it would have been better for to have had the procedure performed on him as a baby. I’ll also add, that when he did have reason to make the choice, he was old enough to make an adult, informed decision regarding his own health, which to me is the essential part.

      I’d be interested in hearing what the effects were for him after the procedure, as to whether his sensitivity levels changed.

      Additionally, though you don’t state it out-right, you seem to imply, or I get the sense of an implication that since this was necessary for him, it should be mandatory for all, in the name of compassion. Would it be acceptable to apply this to potential cancers? Snip a bit of lung “just in case?” Would we feel comfortable in default circumcision for girls, “just in case”?

      By the way, here is an excellent video I found on the difference between MGM and FGM.

      • Flav says:

        It didn’t change the sensitivity. And he was happier with the appearance.

        I actually don’t intend to imply anything by my comments – just an objective observation based on my limited experience with circumcision. I don’t have strong opinions either way and personally, have not had to think about this particular issue much as I have all girls.

        However, I think this is a great article because it’s based on facts and current research – usually “articles” on such subjects are more opinions than fact – in favour of one side and strongly emotionally charged. It’s helpful for people to have fact based, non-judgmental resources to help them make a decision. The last thing parents, especially first time parents, need is to be attacked or ridiculed about their choices when they are already confused and vulnerable.

      • Francis Roy says:

        However, I think this is a great article because it’s based on facts and current research – usually “articles” on such subjects are more opinions than fact – in favour of one side and strongly emotionally charged. It’s helpful for people to have fact based, non-judgmental resources to help them make a decision. Flav

        I very much agree.

        The last thing parents, especially first time parents, need is to be attacked or ridiculed about their choices when they are already confused and vulnerable. Flav

        I also agree. One must make a clear distinction between the individual and the idea. Too often, the decision is not an informed one, but a simple laissez-faire approach the subject, and many of the decisions are based on both factual ignorance and emotional arguments, such as the “it just looks better” argument or worse yet “my religion says to do it.” In my case, the argument used “Everyone else does it”. I personally would have liked to make an informed choice on the matter, rather than leaving it to another to make an uninformed one on my behalf.

        I look forward to the day when appeals to emotion have less hold than simple and clear reason.

  6. Andrea Scott says:

    Thank you for all the comments! As for how common or rare it is for an intact boy to require circumcision at a later age, the Canadian Paediatric Society offers the following statistics:

    “Risks and benefits of circumcision:

    Problems from the surgery are usually minor. Although serious complications are rare, they do occur. Newborn circumcision has been associated with surgical mistakes, such as having too much skin removed.

    Of every 1,000 boys who are circumcised:

    20 to 30 will have a surgical complication, such as too much bleeding or infection in the area.
    2 to 3 will have a more serious complication that needs more treatment. Examples include having too much skin removed or more serious bleeding.
    2 will be admitted to hospital for a urinary tract infection (UTI) before they are one year old.
    About 10 babies may need to have the circumcision done again because of a poor result.
    In rare cases, pain relief methods and medicines can cause side effects and complications. You should talk to your baby’s doctor about the possible risks.

    Of every 1,000 boys who *are not* circumcised:

    7 will be admitted to hospital for a UTI before they are one year old.
    10 will have a circumcision later in life for medical reasons, such as a condition called phimosis. Phimosis is when the opening of the foreskin is scarred and narrow because of infections in the area that keep coming back. Older children who are circumcised may need a general anesthetic, and may have more complications than newborns.
    Circumcision slightly lowers the risk of developing cancer of the penis in later life. However, this form of cancer is very rare. One of every one million men who are circumcised will develop cancer of the penis each year. By comparison, 3 of every one million men who are not circumcised will develop penile cancer each year.”

    Quoted from: http://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/circumcision

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