Is it the right time to get a vasectomy?

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When you’ve decided to stop having children – or if you don’t want to have children at all – vasectomy may be a good option. 

Lawrence Jenkins, MD, a urologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center explains how a vasectomy works and answers some of the questions he frequently gets from patients. 

His first bit of medical advice? Consider having a vasectomy during a major sporting event, such as March Madness NCAA basketball tournament each spring. The recovery time for a vasectomy fits in perfectly with a long weekend of non-stop college basketball.

“We typically see an increase in vasectomy appointments ahead of March Madness, when it’s convenient for men to have a low activity level and time to ice for two to three days,” Dr. Jenkins says.

There can be a lot of apprehension among men about getting a vasectomy. Dr. Jenkins answers the most common questions: 

Is a vasectomy painful?

A vasectomy is performed in a doctor’s office (no operating room necessary!). Since there isn’t any general anesthesia, you can eat normally before the procedure. The doctor will apply a local anesthetic to numb the region, so nothing is felt aside from a little bit of pressure. Men are awake for the procedure, which takes about 15-30 minutes. Bringing music to listen to can serve to calm and help relax patients during the procedure.

Using ice on the scrotum helps to reduce swelling for 2-3 days after the procedure. (That's where NCAA March Madness comes in to play.) Wearing supportive underwear for the first couple of weeks also helps to minimize pain. A few other guidelines: No ejaculating for one week after, and no strenuous activity or heavy lifting for one week. After that, plan to return to a normal activity level.
“Most men tell me that it’s not nearly as bad as they anticipated,” Dr. Jenkins says. “Some men even fall asleep during the procedure.”

How does a vasectomy prevent pregnancy?

Sperm is made in the testicles and then travels from the testicles through a tube called the vas deferens, where it mixes with seminal and prostate fluid, which combine to create semen. During ejaculation, the semen goes through the penis and out of the body. 

During a vasectomy, the vas deferens get cut on each side and stitched shut so that sperm can no longer get through. This is done through a small hole in the scrotal skin. Even though the body will still produce sperm (men produce sperm all of their lives), it will no longer be part of the semen. Sperm will just be reabsorbed into the body.

Note: Vasectomy does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so men with more than one sexual partner should always use a condom.

Will a vasectomy affect performance?

Sperm only makes up about 2 percent of semen. So while the amount of semen will slightly decrease, ejaculation will remain the same. Erections will not be affected either. Also, without the concern for possible pregnancy, some couples report an improved sex life. 

How do I know the vasectomy worked?

The only way to be sure a vasectomy was successful is to have a semen sample analyzed at least eight weeks (enough time for 15-20 ejaculations) after the procedure to make sure no sperm is present. Until this final sign-off, it’s necessary to use another form of contraception. Some men may take longer to clear their system and will need to have more than one semen sample done. 

Can a vasectomy be reversed?

A vasectomy can typically be reversed within 15 years of the procedure. However, it is expensive and not covered by insurance. It is best not to have a vasectomy if there is any chance you may want to have children in the future.

Is a vasectomy expensive?

Most insurance companies cover the cost of a vasectomy. Some insurance companies require at least 30 days between getting consent for the procedure (at a consultation) and the actual procedure itself.

Benefits for women

  • No more hormonal birth control
    Some women experience issues using long-term hormonal birth control. Others find it a hassle to take a pill at a consistent time each day, renew prescriptions or get a shot every three months.
  • No need to track ovulation
    For women who prefer not to use hormonal birth control, there will be no need to track ovulation or avoid sex at certain times.
  • Less invasive than a tubal ligation
    A tubal ligation requires general anesthesia. 
  • No need to worry about getting pregnant
    Most importantly, the fear of pregnancy is completely taken away. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 9 percent of women taking the pill become pregnant, while less than 1 percent of women with partners who have had a vasectomy become pregnant.

Schedule a vasectomy or learn more

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