Why get a vasectomy?
In surveying families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the majority of men get a vasectomy because either they or their partner decided they had all the children they wanted.
There are other reasons to get a vasectomy. Some single men get a vasectomy because they don't think they'll ever be interested in having children. Some urologists won't generally perform vasectomies on men younger than 30, but others aren't as strict.
Before getting a vasectomy, you should check with your medical insurance, if you are insured, about whether your insurance covers the procedure and what it will cover. Coverage varies quite a bit in regards to this procedure.
One of the things your doctor will want to make sure you understand is that a vasectomy is generally believed to be permanent.
What happens when you get a vasectomy?
During a vasectomy, a doctor will cut the tubes that carry sperm from the scrotum to the testicles. This tube is known as the vas deferens. This means, during sexual activity, a man can still produce semen, but it will not have sperm inside of it.
Some doctors perform a “No scalpel” vasectomy. During this procedure, a doctor will make a tiny hole and push blood vessels and nerves over, rather than cutting them. You won't need stitches.
The procedure itself takes about 10 minutes. Most of the time, the patient is awake. The procedure can be performed in a doctor's office. Sometimes a man might get a vasectomy in a hospital when getting a separate procedure, simply out of convenience.
Some doctors might give you a shot to calm your nerves. Often, that's not necessary.
There are different ways to perform a vasectomy. Some doctors will cut a section of the vas deferens out. Others will burn the ends. Some will tie the ends, and some doctors will use metal clips.
Does it hurt?
Pain is the biggest question a patient usually has about this procedure. The pain felt during the procedure is similar to a bee sting. After the procedure, you will probably be sore for up to a week.
What are the risk factors?
With any surgery, there's a risk of bleeding and infection. There aren't any serious risks to vasectomy.
Rare risk factors include chronic testicular pain, which would last longer than a week, but it's very rare. Another rare risk factor is epididymitis, where the epididymis, or the tube that connects the testicles with the tube that carries sperm out of the testes, becomes inflamed.
Recanalization is also a rare risk factor. It's when the vas deferens, the two tubes that were cut, grow back together. This happens in about one in 1,000 vasectomies.
There is not enough medical research to prove that a vasectomy will affect your sexual performance or permanently damage your sex organs. It's important to ask your doctor about any concerns you have.
What's the recovery time?
The amount of pain you feel after the procedure is partially dependent on how active you are. It's important, if you can, to take a few days off and rest.
Your recovery time and risk factors will also depend somewhat on how closely you follow your doctor's after-care instructions. It's important that you ask any questions you have and listen to your doctor's instructions when having any surgery performed.
Your doctor will likely advise you to wear a scrotal support for three to four days after the procedure. You might experience some swelling and bruising, but that should go away within two weeks. Most men can return to sexual activity within a week of the surgery.
What's the follow-up?
After a vasectomy, you will most likely still have sperm in your semen. A man can store sperm for up to two months, sometimes longer.
Therefore, your doctor will likely ask you to come in for at least one semen analysis. Until you have a semen analysis that shows you are no longer producing sperm, it's important to continue using whatever birth control measures you or your partner are taking.
Sources: Dr. Stan Law, an urologist at Midwest Regional Medical Center; The National Institutes of Health; MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia; The Mayo Clinic; Weill Cornell Medical College, Department of Urology.