When it is time to choose a permanent birth control solution, many men become intimidated at the idea of a vasectomy. Many view this procedure as painful, invasive and something to be avoided at all costs. However, many of the things men worry about when it comes to vasectomies are simply myths. A vasectomy is the most effective, long-term birth control method, and is the preferred choice of preventing pregnancy for millions of couples around the world. In fact, 500,000 men choose to have a vasectomy each year. However, like with any permanent procedure, there are a few things to consider when deciding if a vasectomy is the right choice for you.
What is a Vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a quick, minimally-invasive, outpatient procedure that offers permanent birth control to men. The surgery involves cutting and sealing the vas deferens, which are the tubes responsible for moving sperm into the semen during ejaculation. After the tubes have been sealed off, the testicles will still produce sperm, it will just be absorbed by the body. After a vasectomy, men will experience no noticeable difference in sexual activity or ejaculation.
Apart from abstinence, a vasectomy is the most effective form of birth control. Vasectomies are also fairly inexpensive and typically covered by most health insurance, which makes them far more cost-effective than a lifetime of temporary birth control options, such as condoms or oral contraceptives. In addition to being more cost-effective, a vasectomy is also safer and less invasive than the permanent birth control procedure for women, tubal ligation, or “getting one’s tubes tied.” These factors make getting a vasectomy the optimal choice for couples who are interested in a one-time, permanent birth control solution.
What to Expect During the Procedure
Vasectomies are typically a quick procedure, lasting under an hour, with a short recovery time. Before the operation, the scrotum will be shaved, and local anesthesia will be administered. With local anesthesia, the patient is awake but shouldn’t feel any pain. In some instances, patients are given medicine to reduce anxiety as well.
Currently, there are two methods used to perform a vasectomy.
During a standard vasectomy, the urologist creates two small incisions in the scrotum. Through the small cuts, the doctor is able to cut or tie the vas deferens and then seal them with heat. The incisions are then closed with stitches that will dissolve on their own after a few days.
A no-scalpel vasectomy is an even less invasive option. During this procedure, a small clamp is used instead of a scalpel to create tiny incisions in the scrotum that don’t require stitching afterward. This procedure is just as effective as a standard vasectomy and allows the patient to experience a shorter recovery time, less bleeding and less post-op pain.
The Recovery Period
After a vasectomy, patients should expect the area around the scrotum to be numb or sore for a few hours. Mild discomfort is to be expected after the procedure, which can be minimized by taking pain relievers and wearing snug underwear for support.
While it is common to return to work a few days after a vasectomy, heavy lifting and sexual activity is discouraged until the patient has fully recovered. Total recovery varies for each patient but usually takes about two weeks. Since a vasectomy does not rid all tubes of sperm, it is important to still use another form of birth control for the next three months or until a post-vasectomy semen analysis has been passed.
Are There Risks Involved?
Getting a vasectomy is a virtually painless procedure. However, one in five men report ongoing discomfort after their vasectomy. This is typically due to a buildup of sperm behind the blockage, and the discomfort will subside over time. However, some men may experience pain due to more serious reasons that require immediate attention.
Like most procedures, there are a few myths and rumors about vasectomies to be aware of. Despite ongoing debate about the potential link between prostate cancer and vasectomies, numerous studies have shown there is no direct correlation between the two. Additionally, the idea that a man’s sexual pleasure or performance is hindered after a vasectomy is also a myth.
The real risks involved are very low, but potential side effects after surgery could include:
- Swelling of the vas deferens
- Sperm granulomas – Small lumps where the sperm has leaked into the tissue
- Swelling or bruising of the scrotum
- Blood in semen
- Painful urination
- Bleeding inside the scrotum
- Infection at the incision site
- In very rare cases, the vas deferens could grow back together, allowing the man to have children again.
What to Consider Before a Vasectomy
A vasectomy is a great choice for any man who does not wish to father any more children, but this decision is not one that should be taken lightly. While the surgery and recovery may be fairly simple, it is important to discuss the matter at length with your partner and urologist to make sure it is the right choice for you.
Here are a few things to consider before scheduling your vasectomy.
- While it is possible to have a vasectomy reversed, it is a costly, sometimes complicated procedure that does not guarantee fertility.
- Vasectomies do not protect against STDs.
- Vasectomies are safer, cheaper, and less-invasive than tubal ligation (permanent birth control for women), which requires general anesthesia and a longer recovery time.
- Vasectomies are the most effective, permanent birth control solution.
- Make sure you are having the procedure for the right reasons. It is what you and your partner really want; you’re not just doing it to please someone else.
If you have other questions or concerns regarding vasectomies, talk to one the experienced urologists at Advanced Urology today.