What you need to know about vasectomies

Every couple reaches a point in their lives when children are no longer a desired option, and permanent birth control becomes a hot topic. For decades, women have endured the hormonal sways of the pill or endured invasive and sometimes painful procedures, such as a tubal ligation to inhibit pregnancy.

Today, advancements in medicine and perhaps strides in the feminist movement have made the vasectomy a highly sought after birth control option. It’s non-invasive, reversible, less expensive and a simple in-office procedure.

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a permanent method of birth control that prevents the release of sperm when a man ejaculates. Sperm originates in the testicles and is passed through two tubes called the vasa deferentia. After passing through other glands, the sperm is mixed with seminal fluid that forms semen.

There are two types of vasectomies: the incision method and no-incision method. The incision method begins with cleaning the testicles and the scrotum. Then, a local anesthetic is injected into the vas deferens. The doctor will wait a couple of minutes to ensure the anesthetic is effective before making two small openings in the scrotum. The two tubes are then cut and sealed and replaced inside the scrotum. The two openings are then closed with stiches that will dissolve and do not have to be removed. The procedure typically takes 20 to 30 minutes, and it’s recommended to have a partner, family member or friend drive patients home.

The no-incision or no-scalpel method ensures that the scrotum area is not cut. The doctor will make one puncture to each tube and will then tie and block both tubes. Stitches are not necessary, and the tiny punctures heal quickly. The no-scalpel method reduces bleeding and decreases the possibility of bruising and other complications that come with surgery.

What should you expect for recovery?

Although the treatment is fairly quick, there is some down time. After the surgery, expect the scrotum to be numb for one to two hours until the anesthetic wears off. Lie on your back for the remainder of the day and apply cold packs to the area. Minor pain and swelling is common and should go down several days after the procedure. Most men can resume sexual intercourse a week after the surgery, however this is a minimum recommendation, and some men need more time to heal.

A vasectomy is a permanent method of birth control, but you can still get your partner pregnant if your sperm count is not zero. There is a follow-up sperm count two months after the procedure, which is easily completed with an over-the-counter kit found at most pharmacies. Once your sperm count is zero, no other birth control method is necessary.

How will your sex life be affected?

A vasectomy does not mark the end of your sex life. It has no impact on your sex drive, ability to achieve and maintain an erection, or impede orgasms or your ability to ejaculate. Seminal fluid will still be present following ejaculation, but no sperm will be present.

Compared to tubal ligation in women, this is a safer, cheaper procedure with fewer complications. A vasectomy typically costs between $350 and $1,000, whereas tubal ligations range between $1, 500 to $6,000.

Vasectomies are only for men seeking a permanent method of birth control who do not wish to father children. You should not get a vasectomy if you want to have a child biologically or are being pressured by a partner, friend or family member. Consult your doctor before scheduling an appointment.