When all of my sons were due to be born, I filled out an information sheet for my local hospital. Insurance details, room preferences, and advance directive instructions were carefully included on the pages-long form. The instructions for whether or not my son would have a circumcision, however, consisted of a tiny checkbox next to the words, “Circumcision?”

Not one to be taken lightly, the decision to circumcise (or not) is always an afterthought in the care plan for a newborn. Depending on the area of the country or world that you live in, the view can be drastically different. While my goal is not to sway you one way or the other, it is important to know that there are two sides to the great debate and several factors to take into consideration.

Family History – Do you want Junior to look just like Daddy? Tradition is one of the top reasons in the circumcision decision. While a striking family resemblance doesn’t usually rest solely on this one point, it is something to consider.

Religion – Perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when discussing circumcision, the rites and rituals of many religions may dictate if and when your son will have his done. Then again, it is a new era. Your theology of choice may not even mention it.

Procedure – Make sure you are familiar with the “goings-on” with a circumcision. It is naïve to assume that it is a completely non-intrusive event. I have seen parents more concerned with an ear-piercing at the mall than the cutting of their son’s foreskin. Whichever way you go on this, make sure you’re informed. Since your doctor more than likely will assume you already know, they probably won’t volunteer this kind of information. Be sure to ask questions about how the baby will be restrained, what kind of anesthesia (if any) will be used, healing time, proper after-care, etc. This may help you to make your final decision.

Risks – There is plenty of documented (and undocumented) information on the health benefits and hazards of each side. If you feel strongly about one point in particular, go with your gut. This is a decision that you will have to live with, not a supposedly independent research firm.

Communication – Once you have made your decision, be sure the child’s physician is well aware of it. Never assume that your checkmark on a hospital admissions form will do all the communicating for you. Follow up with the doctors and nurses to be sure that they know and respect your decision.

Going Against the Grain – It is never OK for anyone to try to tell you you’ve made the wrong decision. Friends and relatives may not understand if you’ve decided to have a circumcision in a largely circumcised family (or vice-versa.) Unless they are going to be participating in the details of the new baby’s diapers and bathing, they don’t even have to know. When it comes time to explain to siblings or caregivers why Junior looks a little, different, just let them know that it was in his best interest.

Circumcision (or the decision not to) doesn’t have to stress a parent out. It is one detail in many details of caring for and raising your son. Do your research, ask questions, and go with your gut. You can handle this!