Understanding Vasectomy: 8 Facts Every Man (and Woman) Should Know
More than 50 million men around the world have had a vasectomy. It’s not only one of the most popular elective treatments for men, it is also one of the safest and most reliable methods of birth control.
Despite all that, vasectomy continues to inspire myths and misunderstandings that leave men and women wondering whether the procedure is the right choice for family planning
For some expert insight on the subject, we turned to Dr. Charuspong Dissaranan
, a board-certified urological surgeon at Bumrungrad International Hospital
who has been performing vasectomy surgery for several years. With his help, here are eight vasectomy facts every man and woman should know.
1. Vasectomy is a 20-Minute Outpatient Procedure
A vasectomy works by preventing sperm from being released into a man’s semen. To achieve that, about one centimeter is cut from the vas deferens, the tubes that sperm pass through during ejaculation. A typical vasectomy takes 15 to 20 minutes start-to-finish and is performed using local anesthesia. The procedure has few side effects, and the risk of complications is minimal.
2. It Doesn’t Involve Much Pain
Some people mistakenly assume vasectomies cause a lot of pain. “Most patients describe the pain as mild, and that is usually from the anesthesia injection at the beginning,” says Dr. Charuspong. “Patients can stand up and walk normally right after the procedure, and over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen are usually enough for controlling pain, which usually subsides within a few hours.”
3. Recovery Time is Short
Shorter recovery time is one reason that most vasectomies are performed with the No-Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV) technique. The traditional open vasectomy requires two small incisions, but NSV is done with a single small puncture (about one centimeter) on the scrotum
, and the left and right vas deferens are both treated through the one puncture.
“At the end of the no-scalpel procedure, there’s no need for stitches” Dr. Charuspong explains. “The wound is smaller, so there is less bleeding and the wound heals quickly. The overall recovery is faster, and the risk of infection is much lower with NSV.”
4. Normal Activities Resume in a Week
Most patients can return to work and resume most activities within the first day or two, though heavy lifting and excessive exercise
should be avoided during the first week. Most patients can enjoy a full return to regular activities, including sex, after a week.
5. Sexual Performance isn’t Affected
It’s not surprising that both men and women wonder whether a vasectomy will affect their sex life. Myths notwithstanding, numerous research studies show that men with vasectomies report no changes in their libido or sexual sensation as well as no change in their being able to have an erection or an orgasm.
Dr. Charuspong highlights the singular focus of the vasectomy procedure in explaining why sexual performance isn’t affected: “We cut only the vas deferens. We don't touch the nerves. We don't touch the blood vessels. And we don't touch other structures of the testicles. You will still produce semen and sperm, except now the semen won’t contain sperm.”
Studies have reported sex-related improvement for men after they have a vasectomy. In one study, more men saw sexual frequency increase after the vasectomy compared to the number of men who saw a decrease. A second study reported that frequency of sex was higher for men who had a vasectomy than for men without a vasectomy. While the reasons aren’t fully clear, it is most likely due to couples not having anxiety about pregnancy and not having their activity interrupted by the need to take care of birth control measures.
6. Continue to Practice Safer Sex
Having a vasectomy doesn’t change your risk of sexually transmitted infections
(STIs). Be sure to continue taking proper precautions to better protect yourself and your partner.
7. Results Aren’t Immediate
The vasectomy procedure does not make a man sterile right away, as the vas deferens will still contain sperm. Continue to use birth control for up to three months following the procedure, when your doctor will schedule a semen analysis.
“We usually plan a semen analysis about 10 to 12 weeks after the vasectomy,” Dr. Charuspong says. “When the result shows zero sperm in the semen, only then can we call the procedure a success.”
8. Presume That it’s Permanent
In deciding whether vasectomy is the right family planning option, presume that the procedure will be permanent. Yes, vasectomy reversals are possible. But the reversal procedure takes longer and requires microsurgery, which makes it a lot more complicated than a vasectomy. And the success rate isn’t 100%.
As Dr. Charuspong explains, “the outcome depends heavily on how much time has passed since the original vasectomy. If you do a vasectomy reversal 10 years after the vasectomy, the success rate is fairly low. The longer you wait, the lower the success rate.” If circumstances do change at some point after the vasectomy, other options can be considered, such as having sperm harvested for in-vitro fertilization (IVF)
or other artificial insemination
The Time to Decide
Family planning and birth control decisions can have a lasting impact on couples and families well into the future. Having the right information at hand, and being able to separate the myths from the facts, is critical.
Be sure to talk to your doctor, as he or she is well-equipped to answer your questions and explain the advantages and potential risks involved across the range of available options based on your individual situation. And allow enough time to explore the choices without feeling rushed or pressured, so that whatever decision you make will be fully informed and thoroughly considered.