circumcision info in pregnancy and baby books
If you are buying a pregnancy or baby book for yourself or a friend, you may wonder, "Does this book give good information on circumcision?" We have looked over many of today's popular books, and can help you out! Some of these books take a strong stance on different birth and health decisions, but our reviews and ratings focus solely on their circumcision/intact information.
With minor caveats, we recommend these books on the topic of circumcision. Not all of them contain enough information to fully understand circumcision, foreskin, and/or intact care, but the content and guidance is pro-intact.
The Kind Mama by Alicia Silverstone contains her personal story of her decision not to circumcise her son, even with the influence of her Jewish family. She includes a small amount of information about circumcision, plus instructions not to retract.
Better Birth by Denise Spatafora presents an honest explanation of the benefits of foreskin and the many risks of circumcision, and mentions how it’s not more hygienic to be cut. There is a small piece of misinformation giving a specific retraction age, but the overall message is pro-intact.
Your Baby, Your Way by Jennifer Margulis contains an outstanding entire chapter on circumcision! Jennifer covers the financial motives behind the practice, discusses the risks and harms, details how the procedure is done, critiques the AAP's circumcision task force and their 2012 statement, recounts multiple stories of actual circumcisions, and firmly directs the reader to choose to take their baby home intact.
So You're Going to Be A Dad (first edition) by Peter Downey plainly tells the reader NOT to circumcise! It's not a full explanation of the subject, but mentions the pain (calling it "the cruelest cut"), the lack of medical need, and the growing trend of keeping boys intact.
Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper comes in swinging with the header "Myth: Baby Boys Need to be Circumcised." The author addresses infant pain, the loss of sexual function, possible psychological damage, the profit motives, and the fact that doctors, nurses, and parents (including Jewish parents) are increasingly objecting to circumcision.
Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz dispels the circumcision myths, gives a personal story of a nurse who assisted and hated it, lists the many risks, details how it began in the first place, and tells the author's personal story of explaining to his son why dad is cut but the son is intact.
The Baby Bond by Linda Folden Palmer introduces the circumcision section with “The Unkind Cut” as its heading. The author lays out most of the common reasons for circumcision and then addresses each one with facts explaining the faults in those reasons. She covers the connection to female circumcision, the “logic” of cutting off body parts for prevention of disease, its origins in masturbation prevention, and the fact that other medical organizations oppose it. Stopping short of directing the reader not to do it, her case against routine circumcision is clear and solid.
Partially Good, Partially Bad
These books contain a mixture of good and bad information on circumcision. Some do explain the harms, but present either choice as equally valid. Some take a completely neutral stance.
The Mother of all Pregnancy Books by Ann Douglas is a mix of information listing all the supposed pros of circumcision, but also being honest about the cons. It does bust some of the myths like UTI reduction and "he needs to look like Dad." The section on circumcision opens with a personal story of the author keeping her son intact.
The Everything Pregnancy Book by Paula Ford-Martin has a very short circumcision section which cites the AAP’s stance that circumcision isn't necessary, but parents should choose.
What to Expect When Your Wife Is Expanding by Thomas Hill presents a pretty blunt explanation of circumcision and the pain involved. He mentions the dropping U.S. circumcision rates and seems to say it’s done only as a trend, but he also minimizes the benefits of keeping the foreskin.
Pea in a Pod Second Edition by Linda Goldberg contains over 2 pages of circumcision info. It does discuss the risks, pain, negative impact on breastfeeding, and even potential problems (for example, it includes a description of the complication meatal stenosis). The conclusion is for parents to decide with their doctor, but this book does give mostly accurate and honest information. The intact care info is not correct, stating that most boys can retract by age 3 and should start to rinse.
The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland mentions the reasons that circumcision is promoted like cancer, STDs, and the AAP recommendation. It also covers risks and states that the natural choice is to keep the baby intact. The conclusion in this book is that parents should choose, but the author has made a public statement that she'll more strongly advocate against circumcision in the next edition.
The Baby Book - Sears Parenting Library has lots of good information that leans toward the pro-intact side. The authors mention the intact movement, describe the procedure accurately, and debunk most of the myths and reasons for circumcision. The section does conclude that it's the parent's choice, says that it's a very safe procedure, and explains the importance and effectiveness of pain relief. There are no mentions of the foreskin functions or life-long benefits. Another concern to note is that while parents are warned against forced retraction, there is an expectation set that retracing to clean begins around age 3.
Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy provides a "both sides" look at circumcision. It lists the "potential benefits" as well as the "potential risks" and informs the reader that circumcision is not necessary for cleanliness or disease reduction since washing plus safe sex practices are sufficient. However, it validates culture, religion, and matching the family as reasons to circumcise, and states more than once that circumcision complications are rare.
Baby and Child Care by Focus on the Family explains the risks of circumcision to a degree. It also claims that intact penises are less hygienic and are prone to infection. It does not encourage circumcision necessarily, but no benefits or functions of the foreskin are given. It does mention not to retract the foreskin.
You and Your Baby Pregnancy by Laura Riley debunks some of the myths supporting circumcision, but also gives credibility to the "benefits." It does not encourage either choice.
The Midwife's Pregnancy and Childbirth Book by Marion McCartney and Antonia van der Meer contains two extreme opposite thoughts. On the one hand, the case for not circumcising is explained well with the conclusion that there is no medical need. Myths are busted including disease, hygiene, and the need to match dad or brothers. Unfortunately, the final statement on circumcision is that parents should consider having their son circumcised if his being intact will get in the way of their ability to relate comfortably to him.
Happy Baby Happy You by Karyn Siegel-Maier takes a neutral stance, presenting the medical “reasons” as facts (and some are exaggerated), but also presenting the risks factually. It does describe things like meatal stenosis, the lasting psychological effects of circumcision without pain relief, and the loss of sensation, which many books completely ignore.
Pregnancy for Dummies by Joanne Stone and Keith Eddleman fails to take the stand against circumcision that its own information would indicate. It dispels some of the myths with “doctors once thought,” concluding that there is no medical need for circumcision. But then it goes on to encourage the use of pain medication and explain circumcision wound care. It does not promote circumcision, but says that whatever the parents want is fine.
The Mother of All Pregnancy Books by Ann Douglas comes close to being a good option, as the personal stories in the book are very pro-intact. One mother thinks it’s silly to make a son match dad, the second is shocked by the suffering in circumcision videos, and the third who did circumcise states that it’s traumatic. Another positive is that it tells you certain intact issues are from forced retraction and can be avoided. But before the personal stories is a very typical pro/con list that does not address shortcomings to the supposed medical benefits.
The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year by Rallie McAllister and Jennifer Bright Reich contains surprising information compared to what their companion pregnancy book says about circumcision. Unlike the pregnancy book that gives 100% pro-circumcision information and experience, this book has several quotes from moms of intact boys. It warns against forced retraction, but strongly normalizes the idea that 3-year-old boys can retract themselves and need to start cleaning. It also falsely claims that ballooning (which we know is normal) is a sign of phimosis (the condition when an adult cannot retract).
Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care (65th Anniversary) by Benjamin Spock does not seem to be really for or against circumcision. It says not to worry if the foreskin won’t retract until the teen years and warns against forced retraction. But it does say parents can retract a little, as long as they don’t force it, and clean out an excess of smegma.
Pregnancy and Birth Your Questions Answered by Christoph Lees and Grainne McCartan lists the question “Should I have my baby boy circumcised?” but does not really answer it. It states that the reasons are primarily religious and cultural and that some believe it reduces infection. It also says that the foreskin is protective, and it warns against retraction.
These books support circumcision, minimize or fail to mention complications, and/or contain blatantly false information.
The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth by Rallie McAllister and Jennifer Bright Reich deserves special mention as the WORST book we've found on this topic. It claims that circumcision reduces infections, and contains many personal stories (from the "Mommy MD" authors) all strongly in favor of circumcision. Reasons like religion and "matching dad" are supported. One of these doctors circumcised her own son, is proud of the job she did, and claims that he didn’t feel pain. There is zero positive discussion of the benefits of foreskin or of skipping the procedure.
From Dude to Dad by Chris Pegula discusses circumcision purely from a “do what you want” perspective. Though he admits that watching his son get circumcised was extremely disturbing, he says parents should just choose what they think is good and what they think leads to better health and hygiene.
What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff, et al says several times that parents should choose what feels right to them. Even the benefits of staying intact are undermined by calming the fears of complications, stating that pain relief is effective, and claiming it's only personal belief that foreskin has sexual functions. The intact care advice is that a parent should pay careful attention to cleaning under the foreskin starting around age 2 in order to prevent infection! Perhaps worst of all, circumcision to make the penis more attractive is one of the legitimized reasons for it.
On Becoming Babywise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam supports circumcision for the reduction of UTI's and cancer, validates the "locker room argument," and claims that circumcision is the same amount of pain and trauma as the heel stick blood test.
A Good Birth by Anne Drapkin Lyerly briefly mentions circumcision in passing. It trivializes circumcision, ignoring any risks or foreskin functions.
You Having a Baby by Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz starts off positively by saying the foreskin does not have to be cut! But the statement is immediately followed by the "fact" that circumcision reduces STDs, support for choosing it just to look like dad, and the absurd claim that newborns do not really process the pain or remember it.
The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy by Vicki Iovine does not really address circumcision except in passing. It's clear the author is in favor of it, though she mentions that the healing penis will be hurting.
From the Hips by Rebecca Odes and Ceridwen Morris gives both sides, but in an unbalanced way. The "possible benefits of circumcising" — reducing UTIs, cancer, and STDs are validated, while the "possible benefits of not circumcising" are minimized. The overall tone leans toward circumcision, including a quote of a mother putting a positive and selfish spin on the fact that her baby was going to suffer. A small positive: two pro-intact websites are listed as resources for research.
The Expectant Father 4th Edition by Armin Brott and Jennifer Ash contains terrible intact care advice telling parents to retract their sons and wash with soap and water. Not surprisingly, the rest of the section is supportive of circumcision, playing up the value of any reason to do it, and diminishing any reasons to keep the boy intact. The only reason for choosing intact that the authors don't try to discredit is, ironically, to match an intact dad.
The Birth Partner Fourth Edition by Penny Simkin leans toward circumcision, while at least mentioning that "uncircumcised" is an option. Reasons that are validated include parental preference of how the penis looks, religion, lower rates of cancer and UTI, and reduction STD transmission in heterosexual couples. Parents are encouraged to choose experienced doctors to avoid negative outcomes, but nothing positive about the foreskin is mentioned.
Your Baby's First Year Week by Week by Glad Curis and Judith Schuler presents circumcision with the standard reasons. Pain and risks are downplayed, and no reasons to avoid it are listed. It claims that circumcision will have little effect on the child. Parents who choose not to are assured that their son won't be the only one not cut, but relying on this book's info would lead most to choose it. The care info does say not to retract the foreskin, so this book would be ok for someone who already chose to keep baby whole.
Your Pregnancy for the Father-to-be by Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler is basically a duplication of the wording and information of Your Baby's First Year Week by Week.
Your Pregnancy and Childbirth Month to Month, Sixth Edition — ACOG gives the standard reasons for circumcision, mentions no reasons to avoid it, and cites the AAP for further info.
The Modern Girl's Guide to Motherhood by Jane Buckingham mentions circumcision only in the context of penis care. It says not to retract a noncircumcised penis, but also that once it can retract it should be cleaned. This is by no means the worst book we've seen, but there's nothing to help a parent make an informed choice for a whole penis.
Complete Baby and Child Care by Miriam Stoppard does not address circumcision, but does claim that urinary tract infections are higher in girls and uncircumcised boys due to lack of hygiene (later defined as cleaning underneath the foreskin). A different section says not to retract the fused foreskin, but that it should retract for cleaning at age 3 or 4.
The Everything Pregnancy Book by Maryann Brinley credits circumcision with a reduction of UTIs, social benefits, and the elimination of penile cancer. It admits that circumcision is painful, and advises waiting 20 minutes for the EMLA cream to numb the foreskin.
Newborn 101 (Updated and Expanded Edition) by Carole Kramer Arsenault quotes the AAP statement, tells the parents to choose and ask their doctor if they are unsure, and teaches circumcision wound care.
The Nourishing Traditions Book of Baby & Child Care by Sally Fallon Morell and Thomas S. Cowan deserves credit for its extensive explanation of both the history and the gruesome procedures of circumcision. Sadly it falls short by not promoting what would be the natural choice, and even suggests that the sensitivity reduction circumcised men experience is a positive thing. It also errs on intact care stating that little boys should be retracting in the bath.
These books do not address the circumcision issue.
The Everything Green Baby Book by Jenn Savadge
What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5th Edition by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazelay says to see What to Expect The First Year for circumcision information.
Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
The Mommy Docs Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth by Yvonne Bohn, Allison Hill, and Alane Park
Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad! by John Pfeiffer lists circumcision vs. foreskin as something the mother chooses.
A Holistic Guide to Embracing Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood by Karen Salt
Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade Curtis and Judith Schuler
The Essential Homebirth Guide by Jane Drichta and Jodilyn Owen
The Birth Partner Handbook by Carl Jones
The Everything Guide to Pregnancy Over 35 by Brette McWhorter Sember has "circumcision" in the list of birth plan items.
I'm Pregnant! by Lesley Regan
A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Deepak Chopra, David Simon, and Vicki Abrams
The Baby Book – Pregnancy, birth, baby & childcare from 0 to 3 by Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff
The Pregnancy Encyclopedia by Paula Amato and Chandrima Biswas does not discuss circumcision, but the section on diaper changing mentions not to pull the foreskin.