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5 Things to Know Before Getting a Vasectomy

Even hearing the word “vasectomy” can inspire anxiety or even fear in many men. As any urologist will tell you, this simple surgical procedure is performed on over 500,000 American men each year, and with few complications. Still, it’s vital for potential patients to understand the basic facts about this form of contraception. If you’re considering getting a vasectomy but are worried about what it entails, here are five things you should know,

Vasectomies Are Simple In-Office Procedures

A vasectomy (or “male sterilization”) is most often done in-office. Doctors can also perform them under general anesthesia, if you prefer. Either way, you should arrange for someone to drive you home afterward. Make sure you’re able to take at least a day or two off of work as well. If your job requires lifting or vigorous physical activity, plan to take off at least one week to fully recover.  

Vasectomies are not immediately effective. Plan on using another form of contraception for several weeks before you get the “all clear.” Most urologists will do a semen analysis after three months or about 20 ejaculations — whichever comes first — to look for an absence of sperm. 

Prepare Yourself for Healing

Fortunately, the post-op pain associated with a vasectomy is relatively minimal. Taking over-the-counter medications, as well as using ice packs and scrotal support, should help minimize any discomfort. Despite the low-risk nature of this procedure, patients should take it easy afterward to decrease chances of bleeding or injury. You also should refrain from sexual activity for at least one week.  

While the healing process usually goes smoothly, there can be a risk of infection whenever a procedure is performed. As your doctor or nurse will instruct, make sure to watch for any signs of infection, like fever or swelling. There also is a small risk of developing a granuloma — or small benign lump — due to a leakage of sperm. They are generally small in size, however, and not bothersome. 

Vasectomies Can Be Reversed (But It’s Complicated)

Before undergoing a vasectomy, be certain you don’t want the option of having children, or more children, in the future. Of course, family dynamics can change and vasectomy reversals can be performed, but they’re more costly than the original procedure, and their success rates decrease over time. Getting a reversal five years after the initial vasectomy means you’ll have a higher chance of success than getting a reversal 10 years later. 

Another option is to have sperm extracted from the testicle or the epididymis prior to surgery so it can be used for in vitro fertilization after a vasectomy. These procedures are costly and may not be covered by insurance. 

Your Ability to Enjoy Sex Won’t Be Affected

One reason vasectomies can be intimidating to some men is due to a lack of information about how “the snip” is performed. To dispel some fears, here’s what to expect: 

  • You’ll be asked to shave your scrotum the day before the procedure. If requested, your doctor also may write a prescription for medicine to help you relax. 

  • Your scrotal area will be washed with an antiseptic solution. Local anesthesia will be injected to numb the area, but you’ll remain awake. 

  • Your doctor will make one or two small cuts using a sharp instrument to bring the vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra) out through the skin. The vas deferens is cut and a small piece also may be removed. The end of the tube will then be tied, cauterized or both. The local anesthesia should make this relatively painless.  

  • Your doctor will close the scrotal incision with dissolvable sutures or skin glue. In some cases, the site may be allowed to close on its own. 

  • Lastly, the entire procedure is repeated on the other side. 

Ejaculation and Orgasm Usually Aren’t Affected

Why? Only a small percentage of the ejaculate volume consists of sperm. Still, men should always discuss this concern and others with their urologist ahead of time. This way, you’ll feel much more confident and prepared about making the decision to schedule the procedure.

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