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What is a Vasectomy?

If you have decided that your family is complete or if fathering children is not in your future, you may want to consider vasectomy as permanent birth control.  More than 500,000 men in the U.S. undergo vasectomy every year for this purpose.  It is, probably, the least expensive and most effective form of permanent birth control.

Vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure usually performed in a urologist’s office.  It usually takes about 20 or 30 minutes and is done with a local anesthetic medicine.

As you know, your testicles are in the scrotum.  They produce male hormones (testosterone) and sperm.  Testosterone gets to the body through the blood stream.  Sperm travel through tubes called the vas deferens (or, simply, the vas) where they are mixed with semen and come out when you have sex and ejaculate.

To do a vasectomy, the urologist uses a local anesthetic medicine (like lidocaine) to numb the scrotal skin and the vas.  A small incision is made on each side and a small piece of the vas is removed.  The cut ends are sutured closed and/or sealed with heat.  The small incisions are closed with sutures that dissolve and do not have to be removed.  This interrupts the flow of sperm and you cannot cause a pregnancy afterward.

What Should I Expect After a Vasectomy?

Most men can drive themselves to and from the office for the procedure.  Afterward, you should go home, lie down and put your feet up for the rest of the day.  Put ice packs (e.g. a sack of frozen peas) on the scrotum off and on for the first day.

After the day of the procedure, you are pretty much on your own.  You can expect to be a bit sore and have a little swelling for a few days or a week or so.  You MUST, however, avoid any heavy lifting (more than 10 lbs.) or strenuous exercise (running, working out, etc.) for at least 5 days.  If you have an active occupation involving a lot of physical work, you should have 5 days off.  If not, you can usually go back to work the next day.

What Are the Risks of a Vasectomy?

You are not sterile on the day of the procedure.  It takes time and several ejaculations to clear all the sperm from the system.  You must check a semen sample about 6 or 8 weeks following vasectomy to be sure that all the sperm are gone.  Only then can you consider yourself sterile and unable to cause a pregnancy.

You can get an infection.  This is uncommon but, if it happens, usually a few days of an antibiotic takes care of the problem.

You can have bleeding into the scrotum.  This is rare but can happen even a few days after a vasectomy.  If you are too active too soon, the risk of bleeding is increased.

Sometimes vasectomies do not work.  Perhaps one in every 500 vasectomies fails to eliminate sperm and must be re-done.  This is why it is important to check a semen sample about 6 or 8 weeks after the procedure.

Some men develop small cysts or “lumps” around the testicle(s) after a vasectomy.  These usually cause no problems but, occasionally, can be uncomfortable or annoying.

Once in a very great while, men have chronic pain in the testicles after a vasectomy.  This is, fortunately, quite rare but can be difficult to deal with.

A Final Note

You must remember that vasectomy is intended to be PERMANENT.  If you have a vasectomy, you will never father children again as long as you live, no matter what.  Yes, vasectomies CAN be reversed but it is expensive, rarely covered by insurance and only works about half the time.  If there is any doubt in your mind about whether or not you or your partner might want children in the future, you should wait until the time is right to have a vasectomy!

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