Male neonatal circumcision trauma and brain damage

Modern scientific research indicates that early childhood trauma, especially during the first two years of life when the brain is still rapidly developing, produces permanent adverse physical changes in brain development.

Although we know of no research specific to circumcision trauma causing brain damage, we include some of the related research that is applicable. Genital trauma cannot be different from trauma to other parts of the body in its potential to cause brain damage.

This page brings together articles that relate in some way to the risk of possible brain damage due to traumatic non-therapeutic circumcision. Articles are arranged in approximate chronological order of publication.


  1. Anders T, Sachar E, Kream J et al. Behavioral state and plasma cortisol response in the human neonate. Pediatrics 1970; 46(4):532-537.
  2. Talbert LM, Kraybill EN, and Potter HM. Adrenal cortical response to circumcision in the neonate. Obstet Gynecol 1976;46(2):208-210.
  3. Richards MPM, Bernal, JF, Brackbill Y. Early behavioral differences: gender or circumcision? Dev Psychobiol 1976;9(1):89-95.
  4. Rawlings DJ, Miller PA, Engel RR. The effect of circumcision on transcutaneous PO2 in term infants.Am J Dis Child 1980 Jul;134(7):676-8.
  5. Gunnar MR, Fisch RO, Korsvik S, Donhowe JM. The effects of circumcision on serum cortisol and behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology 1981; 6(3)269-275.
  6. Anand KJS, Hickey PR. Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus. New Engl J Med 1987; 317 (21):1321-1329.
  7. Jacobson B, Eklund G, Hamberger L, et al. Perinatal origin of adult self-destructive behavior. Acta Psychiatr Scand 1987 Oct;76(4):364-71
  8. American Psychiatric Association. 309.81 Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. American Psychiatric Association, Washington 1994:424-429.
  9. Walco GA, Cassidy RC, Schechter NL. The ethics of pain control in infants and children. N Engl J Med 1994; 331 (8): 541-544.
  10. van der Kolk, B.A. The body keeps the score: Memory and the emerging psychobiology of post traumatic stress. Harvard Review of Psychiatry 1994; 1: 253-265.
  11. Daniel Goleman. Early violence leaves its mark on the brain. The New York Times, Tuesday, October 3, 1995: C1.
  12. Bower B. Exploring trauma's cerebral side. Science News 1996; 149:315
  13. Lloyd-Thomas AR. Fitzgerald M. Reflex responses do not necessarily signify pain. BMJ 1996;313:797-798.
  14. Taddio A, Katz J, Ilersich AL, et al. Effect of neonatal circumcision on pain response during subsequent routine vaccination. The Lancet 1997;349:599-603.
  15. Van Howe RS. Neonatal circumcision. Lancet 1997; 349:1257-1258.
  16. Fitzgerald M. The birth of pain. MRC News (London) Summer 1998:20-23.
  17. Jacobson B, Bygdeman M. Obstetric care and proneness of offspring to suicide. BMJ 1998; 317:1346-49.
  18. Stang HJ, Snellman LW. Circumcision practice patterns in the United States. Pediatrics 1998; 101: e5.
  19. Immerman RS, Mackey WC. A biocultural analysis of circumcision: a kinder gentler tumescence Social Biology 1998; 44:265-275.
  20. Immerman RS, Mackey WC. A proposed relationship between circumcision and neural reorganization. Journal of Genetic Psychology 1998; 159(3):367-378.
  21. Goldman R. The psychological impact of circumcision. BJU International 1999;83 Suppl. 1:93-103.
  22. Rhinehart J. Neonatal circumcision reconsidered. Transactional Analysis Journal 1999; 29(3):215-221.
  23. Anand KJ, Scalzo FM. Can adverse neonatal experiences alter brain development and subsequent behavior? Biol Neonate 2000 Feb;77(2):69-82.
  24. American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Fetus and Newborn, Committee on Drugs, Section on Anesthesiology, Section on Surgery. Prevention and Management of Pain and Stress in the Neonate. Pediatrics 2000;105(2):454-461.
  25. Hill G. Kraemer's review contraindicates newborn male non-therapeutic circumcision. BMJ 2000 Rapid Responses. 22 December 2000.
  26. Teicher M. Cerebrum 2000;2:50-67.

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