Circumcision: How Much Does It Hurt?

Reading the article below I had one of those "Well, duh!" moments... I mean, really, what adult would allow the most sensitive 1/3 - 3/4 of their clitoris or penis to be ripped, torn, and sliced apart from their body with just a few Tylenol?! Come on now... And here we are talking about babies -- newborn babies -- who, physiological research shows, have extremely heightened senses and perceptions of touch, feeling, and pain. They must, after all - their eye sight is not that great. They cannot defend themselves. They are helpless newborn mammals relying on their sensation and touch receptors to tell them who is 'mom' and who is not. And above all, they are relying on MOM to protect them from people wishing to do them harm - like those who wish to forcibly strap them down and horrifically amputate healthy, functioning body organs via knife from their tender tiny bodies.

Dr. Mark Reiss, long time physician and member of Doctors Opposing Circumcision, discusses ample research which shows us that even those babies who don't scream and cry while being cut apart - even the 4% who do receive anesthesia - still show significant and detrimental physiological changes in body and brain activity. Those who do not scream bloody murder show (on neurological scans) to be lapsing into a state of neurogenic shock and/or coma (which can sometimes occur immediately). To the untrained eye (i.e. the parent who says 'my baby didn't cry') it appears as though the baby has just fallen asleep... How blind we sometimes are.

Let me pose this question:

How would YOU respond if someone strapped your arms and legs down spread eagle on a table, naked, bright lights, cold air, and started to slice away at your clitoris or penis? What physiological responses would YOUR body and brain go through just to survive this traumatic event?

Babies (shockingly) are human beings too. Born with all the nerves and all the sensation (PLUS SOME!) that you currently have in your body. If you wouldn't let someone take a knife to your genitals, then don't let someone else do the same to your precious little bundle - he is depending on you!

newborn baby boy while being circumcised

The following by Michael Idov

Conventional wisdom once held that because an infant’s nervous system was not yet fully developed, he wasn’t fully capable of experiencing pain. Modern research, however, suggests otherwise.

In a study conducted at Rochester General Hospital in 1994, researchers used heart rate, breathing, and reactions like crying and making eye contact to quantify infant pain. They came to the conclusion that infant Tylenol, the customary pain reliever used in most hospitals, was not nearly enough to do the job.

Three years later, a University of Toronto study suggested that the pain experienced in the course of a neonatal circumcision may even have long-lasting behavioral effects. During a trial of a numbing cream, the scientists discovered that circumcised babies show stronger pain response to subsequent routine vaccination than uncircumcised ones, even after four or six months. (This study employed a technique called neonatal facial coding, which gauges pain from such indicators as “brow bulge,” “nasolabial furrow,” and “eyes squeezed shut.”) The paper concluded that the findings might “represent an infant analogue of a post-traumatic-stress disorder.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has since formally recommended the use of anesthetic in circumcisions.

Advocates of circumcision insist that the above studies rely on circumstantial evidence. They note that many medical procedures are painful, and that infants’ kicking and screaming comes as much from being restrained as it does from the cut.

All that may be true, but the scientific community seems to have reached a new consensus: While the consequences of infant pain are still not fully understood, circumcision hurts plenty.

For more on circumcision, pain and related side effects see:

ALL pain studies conducted on circumcision in the US and Canada have come to an early end as a result of infant trauma.

The Brain Altered by Circumcision

Infant Pain Impacts Adult Sensitivity

Boys cut at birth move their bodies differently

Babies Remember Circumcision Pain

A plastibell circumcision (the type used in Patti Ramos' photo essay on circumcision) - the company likes to claim genital cutting does not hurt as much when plastic clamps are used rather than metal clamps

Reports from mothers who observed son's circumcision

Reports from a father who observed his son's circumcision: Stop MGM and Will You Make the Cut?

Men on this site tell their stories of how circumcision impacted them.

Babies "voice their opinion" [video clip of common newborn reactions]

A mother of 2 circumcised sons researches it before her 3rd is born

Another plastibell circumcision is video taped here

For statistics on side effects (including death) due to circumcision see:

Increased Dangers of Circumcision Report (pdf) at


  1. I have often said something similar (in a very exasperated manner) when discussing circumcision. Excellent post!

  2. People who don't think babies understand pain need to come and spend a day with me in my job, where we routinely subject infants to painful procedures to SAVE THEIR LIVES (IV starts, NG tube insertions, inserting lines, intubations, etc). Neonatal pain is not well understood, but it is understood well enough that we now have pain scales rate the baby's coping methods during painful procedures (any baby undergoing a painful procedure is required to have 2 staff members, one to provide developmentally supportive care such as facilitated tucking or non-nutritive sucking, and if possible, the baby is skin to skin with mom, and the other to do the actual procedure. There has been a really fantastic uptake with the new standards amongst staff, and babies are coping better with painful procedures!! For example, one of my little ones slept through a heel poke the other day, which was lovely!).

    It is absolutely MIND BOGGLING to me that anyone would subject their infant to pain when they don't have to. Any parent of a NICU infant would tell you that they would do anything possible to alleviate the pain their infants have to live through in order to survive, thrive and go home (and some of it's pretty intense).

    I've chatted with a couple parents of baby boys who were adamant to keep their boys intact, because they chose to educate themselves, and that the felt it wasn't their right to make a decision to wasn't theirs to make. Very cool. :D

  3. You don't need to rely on research. Just *ASK* one of the adults who were circumcised as a child without anesthesia! Hasn't it even occurred to anyone to conduct a survey? To talk to the victims and ask them about their experiences?

    I am 28 years old. I was circumcised as a baby. Not only was it excruciatingly painful, but I physically responded to the pain which prevented the doctor from holding the scalpel steady which resulted in the circumcision being botched. I still remember the blood curdling scream that came from my mouth. I remember the pain in unfortunately vivid detail.

    As anyone could see from my experience, it hurt. Allot. I'm not citing research, I'm citing experience. I was a victim. I still am a victim. I was physically and emotionally traumatized by the experience.

    There were many consequences. For example, as a child I was terrified of needles. Sure, many children are, but the kind of fear I felt was like reliving the pain of the circumcision. Sharp knives and needles made me remember. I literally had all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and I couldn't even talk yet.

    Why do I remember? Simple: It was traumatic. If you think about any memory, which memories are the most clear? The emotional highs and lows. Along with the ones that you think about most often. That's just the way our memories work. The more traumatic the experience the more likely you are to remember it. I can remember the pain of the circumcision, but I can't remember what happened immediately before or after. I remember just what had the most impact on my developing mind.

    Parents are supposed to protect their children.

  4. I saved a baby the other day. He was born with an Imperforate anus. This is the son of one of my WoW guildies so I didn't KNOW him know him but you know what I mean. I asked him if he got the baby circumcised yet. He's like "No not yet why?" I'm like "There's no reason to" *quoted mormon theology since he's Mormon* and I'm like "And face it, the lil guy has already been through so much pain, you don't want to put him through any more do you?" He's like "No..." I'm like "Yeah he hurts when he pees over his neccessary surgery site right now, imagine double the pain from the front" and the guy was like "??" And I described how the prepuce is fused to the glans...and he's like "OW!!" I'm like "and if you're done and he asks, just say your parents had you done because that's what the facts of the day said, different times, different facts, and you wanted to give him the choice" He was all relieved. He didn't want to have it done to his lil guy...hope the mom agrees..

  5. I just circumsiced my son about 8 hrs ago and I'm regretting it now after reading all this. He is sleeping now and has only cried once tonite, but I'm sure is going to scream his little head off when he wakes up again. He was also a patient of the neonatal unit for 10 days because of his breathing I feel so guilty. I wish I could take it back.

    1. Oh, sweet momma. You're not alone. :( I went through such tremendous remorse over this as well. And my son was injured due to the circumcision being messed up. I never knew it was even an option. I just thought it was done, and they didn't say anything otherwise to me in the hospital. I found this list of things (and a great group called Keeping Future Sons Intact) that you may like: Hugs to you and your son.

  6. *shy wave* Hi.
    I have been thinking and praying about circumcision for my son (he's over a year old). When he was born, I was absolutely certain I would never let anyone cut my baby! My husband was kinda hoping to have it done for religious reasons, family tradition, etc, and I'm so glad he didn't push the issue. Son is still uncircumcised, and we still haven't decided for sure.
    Anyhow, the point:
    Apparently, "circumcision" as we know it is not even the same as that which Abraham, Isaac, et al had. <--- according to this site and some other sources, the original Hebrew covenant circumcision was never intended to remove the entire prepuce (foreskin). Only the extra wee bit that extends past the head when the member is flaccid. Seems that this "take it all off" tradition didn't start till around 140 AD. In other words, if a person has spiritual convictions in favor of circumcision, the original way of doing it would leave the male intact, with just kind of a "peek-a-boo" effect. Does that sense? Anyhow, thought it would be helpful for people who want to spare the sons from harm, but still want to honor their spiritual traditions.



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