What If It's Too Late? Healing after Circumcision
Adrienne Carmack, MD
I began my urology career biased. Like many Americans, I thought circumcision was a normal choice and a healthy one.
Since I've come to understand the normal anatomy and function of the male genitalia, it has been impossible to overlook the harms caused by circumcision. I have witnessed firsthand how circumcision directly interferes with normal sexual functions and also frequently causes other complications such as meatal stenosis, irregular healing, and disruptions in sensation.
This compels me to speak out against non-therapeutic male circumcision. My professional experience confirms the truth in the position statement from the Royal Dutch Medical Association:
The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children’s rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications.
Yet the reality is there are millions of men and boys in this world right now for whom it is too late. Having worked extensively with those who have undergone circumcision (both those who have and have not experienced noticeable negative effects), I believe the most healing approach is as follows:
If you are a parent who chose circumcision for your child:
1. Acknowledge that it was a mistake.
2. Be willing to communicate this openly with your child. This allows healing and creates safety for others to seek help when needed. Accept that wisdom is a combination of knowledge and experience, and not all experience is positive.
3. Speak up as much as you comfortably can. Use the wisdom you have gained to help others. Apply this wisdom to future decisions you make for yourself and on the behalf of others. Healing mistakes requires that we recognize them and choose NOT to repeat them.
1. If you do not feel your circumcision interferes with your life, be grateful that you did not suffer a complication. Recognize that this is not the case for all men.
2. Understand and acknowledge that the foreskin is made of sensitive tissue with a purpose and even though you may be functioning well, you are inherently lacking the functions that would have been provided by your foreskin.
3. If you do have problems, seek support. Groups like Intact America can help put you in touch with others.
4. As above, be open, honest, and share as much as you are comfortable. This helps others know they aren't alone and will help reduce the incidence of non-therapeutic genital cutting of children.
5. If you have specific issues with your scar and shaft mobility, consider whether foreskin restoration may be an option for you. If you believe you have a severe problem, consider having an exam by a urologist.
Above all else, recognize that we have been misled. Circumcision is absolutely not necessary for enjoying a healthy life and complications are many. Let the cycle of genital cutting stop with you.
Dr. Carmack is a board-certified urologist and mother of three children, none of whom are circumcised. She is the author of Reclaiming My Birth Rights: A Mother’s Wisdom Triumphs Over the Harmful Practices of Her Medical Profession and The Good Mommy’s Guide to Her Little Boy’s Penis.