Baby circumcisions in US hospitals decline over three decades

24.08.2013 00:34

The rate of circumcisions performed on
newborn boys in U.S. hospitals dropped 6
percentage points over the last three
decades, with an especially steep decline
in Western states, according to U.S.
government data released on Thursday.
The national rate declined to 58.3 percent
in 2010 from 64.5 percent in 1979,
according to the report from the National
Center for Health Statistics. The tally
excludes many circumcisions, including
those performed in other places such as
religious institutions and those performed
later in life.
Broadly, rates fell during the 1980s,
increased in the 1990s, and fell again in
the early 2000s. During the period
covered by the data, male newborn
circumcision was most common in 1981,
at 64.9 percent, and least common in
2007, at 55.4 percent.
Circumcision is a ritual obligation for
infant Jewish boys and is also a common
rite among Muslims, who account for the
largest share of circumcised men
The wider U.S. population adopted the
practice due to potential health benefits,
such as reducing the risk of urinary tract
infections in infants and cutting the risk
of penile cancer and sexually transmitted
diseases, including HIV.
Still, the practice has been the subject of
heated debate, including efforts to ban
circumcision in San Francisco and
The American Academy of Pediatrics said
last August that the health benefits of
infant circumcision outweigh the risks of
the surgery.
The National Center for Health Statistics
offered little explanation in the report for
the falling rates, but said fluctuations over
the years followed changes to the
American Academy of Pediatrics'
assessment of the procedure's medical
The center's findings were based on
annual discharge data of between 7,000
and 12,000 newborn boys at between
250 and 550 U.S. short-stay, non-federal
In Western states, the rate dropped to
40.2 percent in 2010 from 63.9 percent
in 1979, the center said. Rates in the
Northeast were flat overall. In the
Midwest they mirrored national trends. In
the South they increased from 1979 until
1998 and then declined.
A variety of factors could be at work.
The federal Medicaid program for the
poor has stopped paying for
circumcisions in some 18 U.S. states and
some insurers have balked at paying for a
procedure without a strong medical
Hospitalization lengths over the decades
for mothers and newborns have come to
be measured in hours, rather than days,
prompting more circumcisions to be done
in outpatient settings, said Douglas
Diekema, a professor of pediatrics at
Seattle Children's Hospital.
The margin of error varies across the data
in the report. The national rate, for
example, has a relative standard error of
roughly 3 percent to 5 percent.