Sunday, September 8, 2013

Trauma of Circumcision

There is evidence that circumcision creates permanent brain damage. A recent study, where a circumcision was performed on an infant in a hospital MRI chamber, showed the brain after circumcision never returned to its baseline configuration. The infant brain was permanently changed.

In certain religions, circumcision is a sign of faith or obedience to God and the Bible.  According to scholars, circumcision as described in the Bible was nowhere near as traumatic or invasive as it is today (Winter, 2011).  Biblical circumcision removed significantly less skin, and was proof that the family and the individual man agreed to follow the rules put forth in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, the Bible says that circumcision cuts a man off from God, and that Jesus sacrificed himself so we did not have to shed our blood in sacrifice to Him (Torrey, 2012; Bible, Galatians 5: 3-4, Ephesians 2:15).  This includes infant circumcision, which is vastly different from a Biblical circumcision where only the tip of the skin was cut, typically when an infant was eight days old.

Even if it is painful, the baby won't remember it.Reality check: The body is a historical repository and remembers everything. The pain of circumcision causes a rewiring of the baby's brain so that he is more sensitive to pain later  (Taddio 1997, Anand 2000).  Circumcision also can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anger, low self-esteem and problems with intimacy.

Pain, Trauma, Sexual, and Psychological Effects of Circumcision                     Infant male circumcision continues despite growing questions about its medical justification. As usually performed without analgesia or anaesthetic, circumcision is observably painful. It is likely that genital cutting has physical, sexual and psychological consequences, too. Some studies link involuntary male circumcision with a range of negative emotions and even post-traumatic stress disorder

 (PTSD). Some circumcised men have described their current feelings in the language of violation, torture, mutilation and sexual assault. In view of the acute as well as long-term risks from circumcision and the legal liabilities that might arise, it is timely for health professionals and scientists to re-examine the evidence on this issue and participate in the debate about the advisability of this surgical procedure on unconsenting minors.

The authors believe that "neonatal circumcision may induce long-lasting changes in infant pain behavior because of alterations in the infant’s central neural processing of painful stimuli." They also write that "the long-term consequences of surgery done without anaesthesia are likely to include post-traumatic stress as well as pain.

The piece reviews the medical literature on infants’ responses to circumcision and concludes, "there is strong evidence that circumcision is overwhelmingly painful and traumatic." The article notes that infants exhibit behavioral changes after circumcision, and some men have strong feelings of anger, shame, distrust, and grief about having been circumcised. In addition, circumcision has been shown to disrupt the mother-infant bond, and some mothers report significant distress after allowing their son to be circumcised.The mechanisms mediating such changes in the newborn brain have remained largely unexplored. Maternal separation, sensory isolation (understimulation), and exposure to extreme or repetitive pain (overstimulation) may cause altered brain development.

(Circumcision is described as an intervention with long-term neurobehavioral effects.) These changes promote two distinct behavioral types characterized by increased anxiety, altered pain sensitivity, stress disorders, hyperactivity/attention deficit disorder, leading to impaired social skills and patterns of self-destructive behavior. The clinical importance of these mechanisms lies in the prevention of early adverse experiences and effective treatment of newborn pain and stress.

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