Is it the right time to get a vasectomy?

An adult male meeting with a physician

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.

Pair that with a major sporting event, such as March Madness NCAA basketball tournament, and you can have an easier time recovering from the vasectomy with a long weekend of nonstop college basketball, resting and icing for two to three days.

If you’re one of the many people who now work from home, that makes recovery easier, too, as not having to go in to work is helpful.

There can be a lot of apprehension about getting a vasectomy, though. Let's answer the most common questions and talk about how it works.

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. Local anesthesia is used to numb the region, so nothing is felt aside from a little bit of pressure. The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes. Bringing music to listen to can help you relax during the procedure.

It's normal to feel anxious going into the procedure, and people undergoing a vasectomy are often surprised to hear that it's all done already, because it's such a short procedure. Most of my patients tell me that it's not nearly as bad as they anticipated, and some even fall asleep during the procedure.

What to do to help ease recovery after a vasectomy

Using ice on the scrotum helps reduce swelling for two to three days after the procedure. (That's where NCAA March Madness comes into play.) Wearing supportive underwear for the first couple of weeks also helps 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.

How does a vasectomy prevent pregnancy?

Sperm is made in the testicles, 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 (sperm is produced throughout a whole lifetime), 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 using a condom is still advised as an effective way to protect against them.

Will a vasectomy affect sexual performance?

Sperm makes up only about 2% of semen. So, while the amount of semen will slightly decrease, ejaculation will remain the same. Erections won’t be affected either, as well as your testosterone levels. 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 during sex. Some patients 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’s expensive and not covered by insurance. It’s best not to have a vasectomy if there is any chance you may want to have children in the future. Another option is freezing your sperm prior to vasectomy.

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.

Where is the incision for a vasectomy?

The incision is made under the penis, in the upper part of the scrotum.

It’s a very small incision, and it’s often not necessary to close it. It’s normal to have a small amount of spotting or oozing from the incision, and you can keep it covered with gauze.

What kind of doctor performs a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is most often performed by a urologist, but on rare occasions, it can be performed by a family doctor.

Vasectomy benefits for sexual partners

No more hormonal birth control. Some people 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 people 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% of women taking the pill become pregnant, while less than 1% of women with partners who have had a vasectomy become pregnant.

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