What is circumcision?

Jennifer S. Singer, MD
A circumcision is a surgical procedure to remove the foreskin, which covers the head of the penis. In the U.S., circumcision is typically performed on newborns. It is an elective procedure although there are medical needs and indications for it.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis. It is part of religious custom for Jews and many Muslims, for reasons that have been lost to history. The popularity of circumcision in other groups of men has waxed and waned depending on prevailing notions of health, cleanliness and parental preference. 
Deborah Mulligan
Deborah Mulligan on behalf of MDLIVE
At birth, boys have skin that covers the end of the penis, called the foreskin. Circumcision surgically removes the foreskin, exposing the tip of the penis. If you choose to have your son circumcised, the procedure probably will be performed on the second or third day after birth, unless it is delayed for religious reasons. An infant must be stable and healthy to safely be circumcised. For some families, the choice is simple because it's based on cultural or religious beliefs. But for others, the right option isn't as clear.

Scientific studies show some medical benefits of circumcision. However, these benefits are not sufficient for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to recommend that all infant boys be circumcised.   Because circumcision is not essential to a child's health, parents should choose what is best for their child by looking at the benefits and risks. Circumcision may be more risky if done later in life, so parents should decide before or soon after their son is born if they want it done.

If you have a baby boy, you likely will be asked whether you want him to be circumcised. Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin, which is the skin that covers the tip of the penis. It is a good idea to think about this before going into labor because it is often offered before a new baby leaves the hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend routine circumcision because the medical benefits do not outweigh the risks. But parents also need to consider their religious, cultural, and personal preferences when making the choice to circumcise their son.

This answer is based on source information from National Women's Health Information Center.

Continue Learning about Men's Sexual & Reproductive Health

How Dads May Increase Their Kids’ Health Risks
How Dads May Increase Their Kids’ Health Risks
Mila Kunis couldn’t contain herself after late-night host Jimmy Kimmel said, “My wife and I are pregnant.” “Oh,” she said to him, “you’re both having ...
Read More
Can blood pressure medications cause erectile dysfunction?
Adam Perzin, MDAdam Perzin, MD
Medications used to treat high blood pressure can contribute to erectile dysfunction. One of the fir...
More Answers
Does insurance cover circumcisions?
Jennifer S. Singer, MDJennifer S. Singer, MD
Insurance carriers vary significantly on coverage for circumcision. Most carriers will cover inpatie...
More Answers
Are There Any Psychological Issues Associated with Erectile Dysfunction?
Are There Any Psychological Issues Associated with Erectile Dysfunction?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.