Vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed to prevent the release of sperm during ejaculation, thus preventing pregnancy. It is meant to be a permanent form of male birth control. In the United States alone, about half a million men elect to have a vasectomy every year.
Benefits of a Vasectomy
Vasectomy is a safe and effective method of birth control for men who do not want children or who don't want any additional children. Many men choose vasectomy because:
- It has a low risk of complications
- It is nearly 100 percent effective
- It is an outpatient procedure done with local anesthetic
- Most men don't experience much discomfort during or after the procedure
- It is less expensive and less risky than female sterilization procedures (tubal ligations), and it is less expensive than years of hormonal birth control for women
- It is less risky and more effective than female sterilization
- It alleviates the need for additional birth control
Risks of a Vasectomy
Although vasectomy is a very safe procedure, there are some risks involved. Most men will not experience any side effects at all, but a few men will experience the following right after surgery:
- Mild pain or discomfort
- Bruising of the scrotum
- Bleeding or blood clotting inside the scrotum
- Blood in the semen
- Infection at the surgery site
Rarely, men will experience complications such as:
- Chronic pain or discomfort (which is very rare)
- Inflammation from leaking sperm (called a sperm granuloma)
- Congestion (a sense of pressure that may cause minor discomfort for two to 12 weeks after the procedure)
- Fluid buildup in the testicle
- Unwanted pregnancy if the vasectomy fails
Many men who are considering vasectomy worry about the effects of the surgery. There is a lot of misinformation regarding risks of vasectomy, so men worry needlessly about things that are not going to happen.
Vasectomy will not:
- Affect sexual performance or sex drive
- Cause severe pain
- Permanently damage your penis, testicles or other reproductive system parts
- Increase your risk of heart disease
- Affect testosterone levels
Disadvantages of a Vasectomy
A vasectomy is meant to be a permanent form of birth control, so if you aren't sure you don't want to have children in the future, you should not have a vasectomy. Although vasectomy reversal procedures are available, they are not always successful, and they are much more difficult surgeries than vasectomies.
Vasectomy does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. To protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, use a condom every time you have sexual intercourse.
During the Vasectomy Procedure
All vasectomy procedures are done on an outpatient basis, which means you will go home the same day. It will either be done in your doctor's office or at a surgical center. Most procedures take less than 20 minutes.
To prepare you for the vasectomy, your surgeon will give you a local anesthetic. There are advanced techniques used to anesthetize (numb) your scrotum so you won't feel anything during the procedure. Then your surgeon will cut and seal the vas deferens (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles through the penis) in order to block sperm from passing into the semen.
With the new percutaneous, no-incision vasectomy (no-scalpel vasectomy), your surgeon won't have to make any cuts. Instead, he or she will make two tiny punctures in the skin to access the vas deferens so they can be cut and sealed. You may feel a pulling or tugging sensation, but it shouldn't be painful at all. With the no-incision approach, bleeding is minimal, and you won't require any stitches. This procedure has a number of benefits over traditional vasectomy, including less discomfort, fewer complications and a faster recovery.
Recovering from a Vasectomy
The vasectomy recovery process is not difficult for most men. In fact, most men recover completely in less than a week. Ask your doctor when it's okay to resume regular activity, including sexual activity. Most men can perform some activity after a day or two, but heavy lifting, sports, and more vigorous activity should be avoided for at least a week.
After the procedure, your scrotum will remain numb for an hour or two. It's best to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) before the numbness goes away. To minimize pain and discomfort during recovery, you can take acetaminophen every four to six hours as needed. Applying ice packs will also reduce pain and swelling. You should apply the ice packs (or cold packs) to your scrotal and groin area and lie on your back for the remainder of the day. Bags of frozen vegetables are good as well because they are flexible and easy to wrap. Also, make sure you support your scrotum with a bandage and tight-fitting underwear or a jockstrap for at least 48 hours after the procedure. This will help protect the area and ease discomfort.
You will probably be cleared for sexual activity in about a week; however, remember that the procedure isn't usually effective at preventing pregnancy for a few months. You should use a backup method of birth control until your doctor has confirmed that there are no sperm left in your semen.
Mild pain and discomfort is normal for several days, but it should resolve completely within a week. If you are not completely recovered after 10 days, consult with your doctor.
At Beaumont, we have fellowship trained urologist who specialize in infertility perform vasectomy reversal surgeries to reconnect the vas deferens that were cut during the vasectomy. This procedure is often very successful, and many men who have had a vasectomy can go on to father children. There is also a chance that doctors can retrieve viable sperm from the testicles after a man has had a vasectomy and use that sperm in an in vitro fertilization procedure if vasectomy reversal is unsuccessful.