If you’ve ever had to undress in gym class, with your teammates in the locker room, or around a friend or family member, you might have noticed that some guys look different “down there”. Some guys have skin covering the tip of their penis, and some guys don’t. If you were wondering why, read on to learn more.

What is circumcision?

All boys 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 health benefits to circumcision (less chance of urinary tract infections, etc.) however, it is not routinely done in the United States and most providers don’t recommend one way over the other. Whether an infant boy gets circumcised or not is usually based on cultural, religious, and personal preference of the parent(s).

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 parents 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 are commonly performed by a special surgeon called a urologist, an obstetrician (a health care provider who delivers babies), a pediatrician, or a “mohel” (a Jewish man or woman who is specially trained to perform the procedure). 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
  • Concerns about hygiene/cleanliness

Are there benefits to being circumcised?

Yes, there may be some health benefits to being circumcised. In countries with high rates of HIV, 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 sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), including HIV
  • 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)

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.

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 around the area of 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.

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