Making The Cut
The circumcision debate
For the parents of baby boys, the decision to circumcise often requires sifting through a myriad of medical, cultural and religious implications. By learning more about the procedure and the controversy surrounding it, parents will be able to make the decision that is best for their son’s future health and happiness.
What is Circumcision?
When males are born, the skin covering the shaft of the penis extends downward forming a double-layer fold called the foreskin. In adult males, it comprises roughly one-third to one-half of all the skin covering the penis. Circumcision is the surgical removal of this skin.
Circumcision became popular in the United States in the 1920s and was promoted as a way to curb sexual desires, specifically masturbation, which doctors mistakenly linked to a host of diseases like polio and tuberculosis. The procedure gained momentum through the 1900s, peaking at 79% in the early 2000s, before beginning a gradual decline to the current rate of 56%. Worldwide rates stand at around 30%.
Benefits -vs- Risks
The benefits and risks of circumcision are hotly debated within the medical community. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) the benefits of routine-infant circumcision include a reduction of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in the first year of life, a lower risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases for both men and women, and a reduced risk of penile cancer.
Researchers who oppose these claims assert that the studies are methodologically flawed. For example, studies linking circumcision with lower rates of STDs were conducted in sub-Sahara Africa among homosexual populations. In the United States where contraction occurs most among homosexual males or through the use of contaminated needles, there was no correlation between STD rates and circumcision. Additionally, doctors point out that both UTIs, easily treated with an antibiotic, and penile cancer are rare. Prevention should focus on proper hygiene and safe sex practices instead of the removal of healthy genital tissue.
The medical risks of circumcision are uncommon and generally short-lived. They include bleeding, infection, and irritation from exposure. More serious risks like damaging the urethra or amputation of the tip of the penis are even less likely and can be greatly reduced by having the procedure performed under the use of a local anesthetic by a trained doctor.
Beyond the physical risks, doctors who oppose the procedure assert that circumcision ignores the important physical and sexual functions of the foreskin. For example, the foreskin serves important lubricating functions during sex and reduces the risk of erectile dysfunction disorder. Other doctors cite psychological distress in both infants and adults as a reason to forgo the procedure.
Presently, the AAP states that the benefits outweigh the risks, but not enough to recommend routine infant circumcision. In many other countries, circumcision is viewed as medically unnecessary. The Central Union for Child Welfare in Finland goes so far as to call it a “violation of personal integrity” and ruled it unlawful in 2006.
When Culture and Ethics Collide
Maintaining religious tradition or cultural norms often influence parents’ decisions. Sometimes circumcised fathers do not want their sons to look different than them. Many cite fear of bullying and aesthetic preferences as reasons. Critics point out that this logic is superficial and not sufficient to perform an unnecessary procedure on a child unable to provide consent. Those most vehemently opposed compare circumcision to female genital mutilation.
As a parent it is your job to weigh the benefits and risks, consider the cultural implications and ethics, then make the best possible decision for your child.
Circumcision is a personal choice that all parents of newborn males must make. There are both personal and cultural reasons that parents may choose, or not choose, to circumcise their son. A medical benefit of circumcision is protection against UTI in the first year of life. Complication rates for newborn circumcision are very low, especially when performed by trained personnel in a hospital setting. Bleeding, the most common complication, is usually minor and easily controlled. All male infants must receive their vitamin K injection prior to routine circumcision to decrease the potential for significant bleeding with the procedure. In the end, circumcision is a personal choice by the family. There are documented health benefits of circumcision, but they are not significant enough to require routine male newborn circumcision.”
Dr. Ami Orr, Blanchard Valley Pediatrics
The Baby Blues
An unexpected outcome of childbirth
In the hours, days and weeks after giving birth, you’ll experience a wide range of emotions. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all of these emotions will be positive and joyful. Even though a baby is an incredible blessing—your fluctuating hormones, lack of sleep, physical changes and the demands of caring for a newborn can wreak havoc on your emotional state. You may feel anxious, exhausted, angry, sad or letdown. Your mood may change on the flip of a dime. Up to 80 percent of women experience some kind of “baby blues” in the first few weeks after pregnancy. If depression or anxiety persist or become troublesome, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. Meanwhile, here are some tips to deal with the simple blues:
Get some rest. You’ve probably heard “sleep when the baby sleeps” about 100 million times. There’s a reason for that: it’s excellent advice. Your emotional state will improve when you get some rest.
Talk to someone. Another mom will understand what you’re going through. Call a friend or neighbor who has babies or toddlers—they will talk you through it.
Don’t worry about cleaning. Don’t worry about scrubbing your floors or vacuuming or making gourmet meals. No one expects you to have a clean and uncluttered house when you have a newborn. So whatever you do, don’t put that expectation on yourself.
Take a break. Have your spouse, mom, mother-in-law, friend, or someone you trust watch the baby for a few hours so you can get out of the house. Go for a walk. Take a quick shopping trip. A change of scenery and a small break from the baby can be enormously refreshing.
Eat healthful foods. Drink plenty of water and eat quality foods like fruit, vegetables, eggs, yogurt and milk. Proper nutrition will get you feeling better—physically and emotionally—faster.
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Let your church arrange for homemade meals. Ask a friend to help you with laundry. Recruit your mom or sister to watch the baby so you can take a nap. Tell your spouse he needs to clean the house. People truly love to help new moms—so let them.
Enjoy the moment. When you feel fragile, or weepy, or sad, or exhausted—take a deep breath and say a little prayer for your beautiful baby and ask for strength and patience. Then remind yourself that you’ve been blessed with the greatest task on earth—being a mom. You can do it and you will be great.
Soothing Your Baby's Colic Symptoms
Ways to help your crying baby
Crying is a baby’s way of getting our attention for a variety of reasons. When the crying becomes excessive and lasts for longer than three hours a day, however, this may be a sign that you have a colicky baby on your hands. When dealing with a colic, mothers suffer just as much as their little ones; calming a seemingly inconsolable infant can be frustrating, and mothers will do anything to soothe symptoms, even if it means staying up all hours of the night. Whether you are new to motherhood or you are already a mother of four, it can be hard to know exactly what to do when colic strikes. Luckily, there are some easy solutions to help ease your baby’s pain and discomfort, and help bring bliss back into the home!
White noise: Sometimes, all it takes to soothe a colicky infant is a little bit of white noise. The most popular white noise used to relax a baby during colicky periods is the vacuum; however a white noise machine, a recorded heartbeat, the shower or other household appliances have also been effective.
Massage and swaddle: Some soothing contact can change a baby’s whole mood. Try massaging them gently, or wrapping them tightly in a blanket to provide a safe, relaxing environment similar to the snug feeling your baby was used to inside the womb. Likewise, holding the baby will provide a similar feeling, and if one position does not work, try shifting to another.
Ease a gassy tummy: Colicky babies tend to swallow air while crying, which can result in painful gassiness. Try a natural supplement, gripe water or antigas drops containing herbs such as ginger, dill or fennel, which settle the stomach and help relax cramping muscles, while also being safe for your baby.
Keep an eye on your baby’s diet: Intolerance to certain foods or ingredients may upset your baby and cause tummy troubles as well. If you are breastfeeding, try switching out certain foods from your diet to see how your baby reacts. If your baby is on formula, it may be beneficial to switch to one with different ingredients – just be sure to talk to your baby’s doctor before making any significant dietary changes.
Roshan Kaderali was a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, Certified Lactation Educator, and is now the founder of Mommy’s Bliss. Working with an FDA-registered current good manufacturing practice laboratory, she developed the first all-natural gripe water for the American Market.
Pregnancy Faux Pas
What NOT to say to a pregnant woman
There’s something about pregnancy that strips friends, family members, and strangers of their societal niceties. Strangers will ask to touch your belly, friends will compare your belly size to theirs (and yours will always be SO MUCH BIGGER), and family suddenly has more unsolicited advice than you thought was possible. Here are some of the cringe-worthy remarks my friends and I heard during our pregnancies.
“You better sleep now because you won’t sleep again once the baby is born!”
While this observation may be true for many new mothers, we hate to be reminded of this likely possibility. Parenthood is frightening enough without the frequent admonition that sleep will forsake us once the baby is born (if it hasn’t already during pregnancy). Plus, we all wistfully hope that our child will miraculously sleep through the night after only a few weeks. Don’t burst that bubble.
This exclamation, along with the comparable phrases “Your belly is really big for X months” or “You are much bigger than so-and-so was at this stage,” seem like obvious things NOT to say, but most of us have heard something along these lines. Maybe we should start replying with retorts such as “So is your beer belly!”
“You must be having a girl, girls strip all the beauty from their mothers.”
I’m not making this up; this was actually said to a friend of mine–a beautiful, thin, pregnant friend of mine. Similarly, I was warned in the early stages of my pregnancy that “You better hope you’re not having a girl because you’re going to carry the weight EVERYWHERE.” We have all heard these old wives tales, so even an innocent prediction of a baby girl can send us spiraling into self-loathing.
“You know, you shouldn’t eat/drink/exercise that way while you’re pregnant.”
Pregnancy is emotionally and physically draining, and sometimes we need to indulge to keep our sanity. There are so many common items we renounce during pregnancy, and if we occasionally satisfy a craving for a piece of sushi or a sip of coffee or a rigorous workout, then the last thing we want to hear is condemnation from an observer.
“Are you going to deliver naturally?”
This is often a loaded question, depending on who is asking. Some moms judge others for not choosing an epidural, while others imply that women who succumb to medical interventions are weak. Some women create and closely follow a birth plan; others encounter medical emergencies that negate the best of intentions. Instead, people should focus on babies being born healthy and safe, not how they are delivered.
Erin Schoen Marsh, writer and yoga teacher, is the mother of Dexter, 2, and she is expecting a new bundle of joy this summer.