Circumcision of Multiples Equals Multiple Mistakes

I reflect on Noble's experience here after speaking with not one, not two - but five - men so far this year who each shared that they discovered they are intact solely because they were born as a multiple, and too frail to endure the harsh cutting blade of circumcision surgery during a decade when "everyone was doing it." Common to what Noble mentions in her last paragraph here, each of these men said he grew up (happily) intact among cut peers in the U.S., but solely due to his 'luck' of being a twin born too early to be circumcised.

Our babies shouldn't have to 'luck out' to escape circumcision surgery only when they are weak, ill, or premature. All babies - multiples, singles, full-term, and early-born, deserve to be protected by the loving, gentle hands that bring them into this world. As parents, it is our duty to explore this subject completely. Thankfully, accurate information is easier to find today than it was when these five men were born. If it is something you have yet to look into, I recommend starting with any one of the many books on the subject, explore websites, read articles - and dig deeper. There is much to be said on the topic of keeping our children intact.

In addition, I applaud birth practitioners around the globe who refuse to stand by silently while the brutality of FGM and MGM is taking place around them. Noble and Sorger are just two of the many (too many to name here, really) who daily work with mothers and their babies; who know the perils of circumcision all too well; who refuse to be a part of the hand that cuts newborns without reason. It is foundationally hypocritical to advocate for 'gentle birth' (or 'natural birth') or work within the fields of birth and babies in North America and not also speak up clearly against MGM. Kudos to all of you who are truly advocating on behalf of your clients' health and birth outcome (mother and baby) and always being vigilant to "first, do no harm."

Twin boys, photographed by J Luna Photography; baby announcement by inacard

Excerpts from the outstanding book for parents expecting multiples, Having Twins and More, by Elizabeth Noble and Leo Sorger, M.D.

Soon after a mother of multiples has been cut (episiotomy or Caesarean), the knife is often readied for the newborn boy's penis. You can see step-by step illustrations of one of the many procedures that create this disaster here.

One hundred percent of baby boys oppose this mutilating surgery and so should you - their screams of betrayal and protest are ignored by those who are cutting. This abuse is typically done during the mother's postpartum stay (and in a room far away from where she can see and hear her babies). Dr. Sorger refuses to perform circumcision surgery and accept "blood money."

Until recently, most surgical procedures (including circumcision) were performed without anesthesia because of doctors' mistaken assumptions that babies do not feel pain. Babies were usually paralyzed for procedures with curare (Pancronium), a drug that left them unable to move or react in any way, but able to feel everything that was done to them. In 1986, parents of preterm babies, led by Jill Lawson, the mother of a baby who died after unanesthetized surgery, called public attention to this barbaric state of affairs. Recent research has shown that unanesthetized surgery is not only cruel, but dangerous. Stress from surgical pain leads to high incidence of complications that can cause disability or death.

Nevertheless, the practice of unanesthetized surgery continues. Circumcision is a regrettably common example of surgery that happens every 26 seconds in the United States without anesthesia. Clearly, parents have to supervise their babies' pain management and advocate for pain relief in the case of truly necessary surgeries. Before any surgical procedure, parents should discuss their concerns with the surgeon and especially with the anesthesiologist.

Circumcision also remains the most frequent surgical procedure performed on males in the United States; the number of baby boys cut in the year 2000 was 1,214,312 for a total cost of $2.3 billion. The national rate was about 60%, although it varied widely. [The CDC announced that the circumcision rate in the United States fell drastically since 2000, and was 32% in 2009.] Medicaid funds over 25% of foreskin amputations, which costs United States taxpayers directly over $37 million annually, and indirectly far more.

Many midwives and doulas follow the example of the late (Jewish born) mother, intactivist, and freebirth practitioner, Jeannine Parvati Baker, who would not attend the birth of any parents planning this barbaric act. [Read Baker's Perspectives on Violence here. When pressure was put on Baker to have a bris for her own son in the late 1960s, she refused. Hear more from her here.]

Europeans and Scandinavians look aghast when told that this is done in the United States. To them, circumcision is equivalent to one of the female genital mutilations performed in many regions of Africa and other parts of the world. There are laws in the United States against female genital mutilation [the FGM Bill], but inexplicably, not against male genital mutilation. No medical society in the world recommends circumcision, but it is pursued for profit by greedy physicians and by misinformed parents for a host of invalid reasons.

The tragic traumas (surgical, pharmaceutical, emotional, physical, and psychological) of Canadian twin David Reimer, who lost his penis after circumcision and was forced to undergo a sex change, is documented in As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. At age 14, "she" learned the truth and returned to his real male self (surgically and hormonally). However, his life was in shreds, unlike that of his co-twin, who was left intact.

To "look like Dad" (which becomes "to lack like Dad") is one of the common excuses given to deprive a baby boy of this protective and sexually significant part of his penis. However, one mother of identical twins, recently witnessed the screams of terror and bloody agony as her
first was circumcised, and refused to allow her co-twin to be cut. "But they won't look alike!" chastised her doctor. "Two wrongs don't make a right," was her reply.

Check resources completely for information to help you keep your son intact in the face of such abuse from some medical establishments. Be vigilant in hospitals where circumcisions are routine and all the babies in the nursery tend to be "done" - yours might be included. (There have been many lawsuits over inadvertent, as well as botched, circumcisions.) Just as the umbilical cord is commonly used for skin grafts, so are the amputated foreskins of baby penises. Make sure you protect any sons you may have against circumcision - take your whole baby home.

Preterm multiples often have the luck to escape, being too frail to undergo the operation (which has caused infection, hemorrhage, and even death in healthy, full-term babies). Most of the world's males are intact as nature intended, and happily so! Your sons will thank you for being part of the majority, which they will be.

For additional information on the prepuce (foreskin), intact care, and circumcision see:

Elizabeth Noble is the founder of the Women's Health Section of the American Physical Therapy Association, an expert on multiple pregnancy, and 40 years in the field of birth and babies. Visit her website at

Leo Sorger, M.D. is a board-certified obstetrician with 50 years experience in gentle birth of multiples.

Find their book, Having Twins and More, here, or request at your local bookseller and library.


  1. This is very interesting. I never though about that multiples thing.

    I have 2 interesting comments, about 2 different men I know.

    1 is my ex, and he is intact. He was born early (not a twin.) I do not know if this is the reason he remained intact, or if his father is also intact (and I'm guessing he probably is judging by his age.)

    The other is my best friend. He is cut. The really really horrifying part is that he was born 3 month early in 1978...lucky to be alive today...clearly they must have cut him when he was older. It just breaks my heart. Him and I have talked at length about it. He is not happy about not being given the choice. He and I have talked about having children and of course they would remain intact. That is how the conversation between us about circ began in the first place. I told him over my dead body would my child be circumcised...he agreed.

    2 early babies (one born in 1978, one in 1979) lucky, one not so.

  2. I have a friend who is an intact twin and his brother was cut first. There were complications with his brother's surgery so even the doctor did not want to cut the second twin.

    Those two boys grew up with the comparison right in front of them every day. The one who was cut is very resentful. The one who is intact feels guilty. I can't imagine what the parents must feel.

    Both men have intact sons. Gloria Lemay, Canada

  3. The baby I sit for is intact ONLY because his penis was too small for circumcision at birth. His mother asked me about circumcision when he was 8 months old.

    She was going to circumcise him at 8 months (until she spoke to me) because he couldnt have it done as a newborn. She said he was put on the table, strapped down and everything until the DR realized it was too tiny to be cut up.

  4. Gloria, has this friend of yours heard of foreskin restoration? Although it may not cure the resentment, it may help with any envy the one who's circumcised may feel - not to mention all the physical differences.

  5. You may know the story of David Reimenr who lost his penis in a circumcision accident and was then raised as a female child. David was a twin, and he and his brother were both intact toddlers... when at some point it was deemed that they BOTH NEEDED to be circumcised. David went first and his penis was burnt with an electrocautery... after this horrific accident- it seems his twin brother was cured- because he no longer "needed" to be circumcised.

    WiseWoman tells a similar story- why does the doctor quit only half way through the task? Why should we assume that the second twin would suffer a similar fate as the first if these things are so rare... One wonders, "Did the doctor quit circumcising ALL children after that?" and if not- there really wasn't much point to skipping the second twin other than some sort of regret showmanship for the benefit of the parents.
    Here is one mother's story about the shock of finding out that both of her twin boys are suffering from one of the most common circumcision complications- adhesions.

  6. I am an RN and was recently made aware of an infant with a clotting disorder who needed to be on a continuous infusion to prevent bleeding. I couldn't believe when I read the paperwork that despite this, they still circumcised him.

    I also had patients who were term twin boys. The mom, who had no relationship with the babies father, decided to have them both circumcised. On Christmas.

    She also confessed to me she knew her dad was intact and had no problems. She had a hard time deciding, but the NICU nurses encouraged her to circumcise, so she did.

    I guess it just goes to show how culturally conditioned parents (and nurses) can be, as well as how greedy (or ignorant) doctors can be.

  7. My husband is a twin. He was born nearly 10 weeks early and he and his brother were for some reason, circumcised 3 days later......what doctor would do this I cannot imagine. It wasn't until this week that my husband realized his own mother demanded it and that it could have killed them both. She still defends the practice and it sicken me.


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