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Circumcision of baby boys is a surgical procedure to remove the layer of skin (called the foreskin or the prepuce) that covers the head (glans) of the penis and part of the shaft. It is most often done during the first few weeks after birth.

Circumcision is a “non-therapeutic” procedure, which means it is not medically necessary. Since 1996 this surgery has not been recommended by the Canadian Paediatric Society or by the Canadian Medical Association. It is also not funded by MSP, who classifies it as cosmetic surgery. Physicians still performing circumcisions in B.C. charge from $250 to $450 for the procedure, which is normally done without any anaesthetic for your newborn.

Now that circumcisions are not performed in hospitals, precise statistics are difficult to obtain, but it is clear that rates have been dropping for several decades, and continue to do so. According to the Association for Genital Integrity, circumcision rates in B.C. were 58% in 1976, but only 30% in 2007.

Unbiased information on circumcision is hard to find, but here are some fairly good sites:

Canadian Paediatric Society – Circumcision information for parents
“Neonatal Circumcision Revisited” – Canadian Paediatric Society’s position paper on circumcision
American Academy of Family Physicians – “Circumcision: Position Paper on Neonatal Circumcision”
“UpToDate for Patients – Circumcision in male infants” – written and edited by MD’s. Includes references. 

Myths abound about the intact (uncircumcised) penis, including the mistaken but pervasive belief that the baby’s foreskin must be retracted (pulled back) daily and cleaned in order to prevent infection. It is rare for the foreskin to be completely retractable at birth – usually it is still attached to the glans (the head of the penis). The two parts develop as one tissue in utero, and will separate and become retractable by about the age of 5. So it is not necessary to clean daily until a boy reaches puberty, when it can become part of a daily hygiene routine. In fact, retracting the foreskin before it has naturally detached from the glans can create lesions (small wounds) that then heal into scar tissue. This scar tissue can later prevent the foreskin from retracting easily.

“Care of the Uncircumcised Penis” – by the American Academy of Pediatrics