Lots of people have questions about their penis, and whether it’s normal. You may wonder why you do (or do not) have foreskin around your penis.

What is circumcision?

People assigned male at birth (AMAB) are born with foreskin that covers the glans (or head) of their penis. Circumcision is a procedure in which the foreskin is removed.

Is it better to be circumcised or uncircumcised?

It’s not “better” to be circumcised or uncircumcised. Both are considered normal. Although circumcised and uncircumcised penises look different, they ultimately work the same way.

Research studies show some health benefits to circumcision. However, good hygiene can help you avoid the risks associated with being uncircumcised. The benefits of circumcision seem to be small in the United States and there can be risks associated with the procedure, so most health care providers do not recommend for or against circumcision.

Whether a baby assigned male at birth (AMAB) gets circumcised or not is usually based on cultural, religious, and personal preferences of the parent(s) or guardian(s).

Are there benefits to being circumcised?

There may be some health benefits to being circumcised. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics some benefits of circumcision include:

  • Lower risk of sexually transmitted infections such as:
  • Lower risk of penile problems including phimosis (when the foreskin is so tight that it’s hard or painful to pull it back over the tip of the penis)
  • Lower risk of urinary tract infections
  • Lower risk of penile cancer

Good hygiene, using a barrier method (such as a condom) with all sexual contact, and getting the vaccine to prevent HPV can lower the risks of being uncircumcised. Please note these are also general recommendations for people AMAB.

Are there any risks to having a circumcision?

Circumcision does have risks because it’s a surgical procedure, but problems do not occur often. The most common risks include bleeding, infection, and pain. These risks tend to be higher for teens and adults than for babies. Some medical problems can increase the risks of the procedure. You should always talk to your health care provider to find out which risks apply to you.

Remember: To prevent STI’s including HIV, you should always use a condom when having sex, whether you are circumcised or not.

When is a circumcision done?

A circumcision is usually done within a few days after a baby is born. However a person may get a circumcision when they are older for medical, religious, or personal reasons.

Who performs a circumcision?

Circumcisions for babies are commonly performed by:

  • a special surgeon called a urologist,
  • a special surgeon called a urologist,
  • an obstetrician (a health care provider who delivers babies),
  • a family medicine doctor,
  • a pediatrician, or
  • a “mohel” (a person who is specially trained to perform the Jewish rite of circumcision).

If it’s done for a teen or adult, it’s usually done by a urologist.

If I’m not circumcised, is there anything I should do differently to practice good hygiene?

To help keep your penis clean:

  • Gently pull back the foreskin past the bottom of the glans (head of the penis)
  • Use mild soap and water to clean underneath the foreskin and the shaft
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly
  • Gently pull the foreskin back over the tip of your penis

It should never hurt to pull back the foreskin. If your foreskin hurts, your foreskin is swollen, or you cannot pull your foreskin past the head of the penis you should see a health care provider.

Ultimately the biggest difference between being circumcised or uncircumcised is how your penis looks. Whether you’re circumcised or not you should:

  • Practice good penile hygiene, including washing underneath the foreskin if you’re uncircumcised
  • Use a barrier method (such as a condom or dental dam) with sexual contact
  • Get the vaccine to prevent HPV and lower your risk of penile cancer