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?

All sex-assigned at birth males are born with foreskin that covers the tip of their penis. Circumcision is a procedure in which the foreskin (the skin covering the tip of the penis) is removed. It is more commonly done in the United States than other parts of the world.

Is it better to be circumcised or uncircumcised?

It’s not “better” to be circumcised or uncircumcised, and both are completely normal. Although circumcised and uncircumcised penises look different, they work the exact same way. Research studies have shown that there are some health benefits to circumcision (a lower risk of urinary tract infections, etc.). However, the benefits seem to be small in the United States, so most providers don’t recommend for or against circumcision. Whether a sex-assigned at birth baby gets circumcised or not is usually based on cultural, religious, and personal preference of the parent(s).

Are there benefits to being circumcised?

Yes, there may be some health benefits to being circumcised. In countries with high rates of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), circumcision lessens the risk of spreading the virus. However, in most western countries such as the United States, the benefits are not big enough for experts to recommend always having it done.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics), benefits may include:

  • Decreased risk of some sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, human papillomavirus (HPV), and herpes
  • Decreased risk of penile problems including phimosis (when the foreskin is so tight that it’s hard and/or painful to pull it back over the tip of the penis) and penile cancer
  • Decreased risk of urinary tract infections (UTI’s)
Remember: To prevent STI’s including HIV, you should always use a condom when having sex, whether you are circumcised or not.

Are there any risks to having a circumcision?

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

When is a circumcision done?

A circumcision is usually done within a few days after a baby is born. If you’re not circumcised, your parent(s) likely decided that they didn’t want you to have a surgical procedure as a newborn baby. You do, however, have the option of having a circumcision when you are older. Having a circumcision later on is usually done for a specific medical or religious reason.

Who performs a circumcision?

Circumcisions for babies are commonly performed by:

  • 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.

Why do parents choose to have their son(s) circumcised?

There are many different reasons why parents may decide to have their son(s) circumcised. Some reasons include religious beliefs, cultural/family preferences, and concerns about hygiene/cleanliness.

If I’m not circumcised, are there any problems I should watch for?

No. You may just need to pay a little more attention to practicing good hygiene, including cleaning underneath your foreskin. If you have questions or concerns, you should talk with your health care provider.

To keep your penis clean:

  • Gently pull back the foreskin and clean beneath it with mild soap and water
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly, and pull the foreskin back over the tip of your penis

In most cases, the choice of whether or not to be circumcised was likely made for you when you were a baby. Whether circumcised or not, your penis is completely normal either way. Talk to your health care provider about any questions you may have.