Intact or circumcised? Believe it or not (if you're reading this magazine, you're probably likely to believe it) the question of whether or not male children are circumcised is a popular one in Mommy circles. It's a divisive topic too, as more and more natural-minded moms are moving away from the 'given' that a baby boy is circumcised shortly after birth.
Related: Iceland Debating Legislation that Would Ban Male Circumcision
The American Academy of Pediatrics's official position all but recommends circumcision, urging parents to weigh the medical risks over the 'benefits' of the procedure. The World Health Organization set out to revise their guidelines in 2018, but has yet to give updated guidance. Based on their mentality for revising guidelines, it's not hard to surmise they may likely still recommend circumcision, mainly for the benefit of preventing HIV in boys and men.
Male circumcision rates are on the decline, though, and some doctors believe that's a cause for alarm. Brian Morris is a professor emeritus in The School of Medical Sciences at The University of Sydney. Responding to data the Mayo Clinic reported about the declining rates, Morris said that infant circumcision should be thought of as equal importance to childhood vaccinations. He also said it would be unethical if parents weren't routinely offered circumcision for their baby boys, delaying options puts the child's health at risk and reduces the odds of the circumcision happening.
Yes, you read the v-word, and as there's great debate about vaccines, there's also great debate about the physical, mental and moral ramifications that come with circumcision one's son.
This is why one of our writers decided to interview a pediatric urologist for the scoop on male circumcision. Author Sarah Clark interviewed Dr. Adrienne Carmack, and we believe that it's an important interview for every mama to read.
Today I have a special treat to share with you--an interview with a real live medical doctor (and urologist) who has become a driving force in the growing tide against routine infant circumcision. A mother of three intact children (two girls and a boy), Dr. Carmack has also written a book detailing her journey from a mainstream "whatever floats your boat" attitude towards circumcision to the advocate she is today.
I couldn't wait to ask her some questions about how and why she did this. I hope you enjoy!
Dr. Carmack, thanks so much for taking the time to do this! I love that you are somebody with letters behind their name who has the courage to stand up and share some hard truths about common medical procedures despite opposition. Tell us, honestly, how has this impacted your career? I have spoken with physicians who literally were denied jobs because of their more alternative (ie: homebirthing) lifestyle choices. Have you experienced any negativity professionally or elsewhere?
I learned from Karla McLaren that fear is a gift of intuition and action. I chose to consciously face my fears, and that has led me on an actionable path to share truth. With this, my career is moving in the direction I want it to move, which is towards an ethical, responsible sharing of what I know as a mother and a physician.
What a beautiful perspective. I love that you see that your life will move in a positive direction when you live true to values that are meaningful and not fear.
In your book you talk a little bit about your journey from following the standard "risks and benefits to circumcision" to realizing that this is really a human rights issue. Could you describe briefly what led you to that place?
It began simply by reading the medical literature myself so I could more confidently explain the risks and benefits to parents. However, when I read the literature, I realized that the purported benefits simply didn't make sense and the risks were not ethically acceptable.
Related: Circumcision Talk: When Family Doesn't Agree with You
Amazing. It is so powerful that you as a person and mother, but also as a medical doctor, found that the research simply didn't support the status quo. What a difference it would make if this was a widespread practice!
Tell us a little bit about your activist work in regards to promoting natural birth, breastfeeding and preventing unnecessary circumcisions.
I believe the greatest form of activism is to share truth and speak out despite fear and shame. By telling our stories, we challenge cultural norms and open people's eyes, minds, and hearts to more compassionate living.
So true--the simple act of speaking, communicating, and telling stories is just powerful.
How can WE as mothers get involved if these are things we too are passionate about?
Take responsibility for you and your children's health and don't give that power away to anyone else. If you feel passionate about sharing, join forces with other groups doing the same, such as Intact America or Human Rights in Childbirth. Most importantly, share your stories with vulnerability and transparency so the myths disappear and truth is apparent.
Love that. We can all make a difference no matter where we stand as long as we stand.
I know that convincing people to change their opinions on some of these subjects can be hard, especially with some of the prevailing medical opinions. Are there good resources or research regarding these subjects? What do you recommend for questioning family members?
Far more important than research is actual human experience. This is what is real. Fortunately, a lot of people are speaking out and able to share their truths widely via the Internet. The more power we give to people's voices, the better!
That is part of the beauty of social media! Thanks for taking the time to share your vibrant and bold voice.
I know we all are excited to read your book! Where can we find it?
Thanks! My book challenges a lot of myths being perpetuated by the medical field, including myths around genital alterations and birth practices. It's available in print via my website, www.adriennecarmack.com, or through Amazon. You can find it in eBook form through all eBook distributors. A few book stores are carrying it, and, if you ask, most can order it!
Thank you for being a bold voice in literally changing the way we birth and treat our babies. In conclusion, would you mind mentioning where you practice so people in your area can have the pleasure of knowing you? Also, where can we connect with you on the Internet?
I live in Austin, Texas. You can find me at Integrative Health Matters.
Dr. Carmack's books are called "Reclaiming My Birth Rights" and The Good Mommy's Guide To Her Little Boy's Penis is a must-read for any naturally minded mother, especially mamas of little boys.