If you don’t wish to have any or more children, a vasectomy is one of the safest and most effective forms of contraception possible for men and others with functioning testicles. With a failure rate of approximately 0.1%, it involves a fairly simple procedure and is near permanent (reversals are possible, but more on that later).
According to Dr Blanks, a Victorian-based vasectomy clinic, “About one in four men over the age of 40 have had a vasectomy in Australia”, with approximately 25,000 to 30,000 men choosing to have the procedure done annually. In fact, the amount of Australian men receiving vasectomies has been steadily rising over the past few years.
If you’re looking to explore a vasectomy as a contraceptive method, here’s everything you need to know about receiving the procedure.
What is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a contraceptive procedure that involves “snipping” the vas deferens, which are the internal tubes that carry sperm from your testicles to your prostate. By disconnecting these tubes, your sperm will no longer be able to mix with your semen during ejaculation, making it sterile.
How does a vasectomy work?
There are two methods for getting a vasectomy. The more traditional of the pair is the “scalpel method”. This involves the surgeon making one or two small incisions on the scrotum with a scalpel, so they can access the vas deferens.
The other procedure, known as the “no-scalpel method,” involves the doctor making one or two micro-keyhole punctures through the scrotum to access the vas deferens with special hemostat forceps. Compared to the scalpel method, the no-scalpel method is a lot less invasive, requires no stitches and is relatively less painful.
Usually, a vasectomy involves removing around 1 to 2cms of the vas deferens, which will help lower the chances of the tubes rejoining in the future. These procedures are also quite quick, taking anywhere between 15 to 40 minutes to complete (depending on where you get it done).
Sealing the ends of snipped vas deferens usually involves either cauterisation via an electric or thermal burn, or ligation, where your tubes will be tied. In some cases, only the abdominal side of the snipped vas deferens will be cauterised or ligated, while the tube connected to the testes is left unsealed. This allows sperm to be released into the scrotum to avoid a build-up of pressure (don’t worry, the volume is quite small and will be naturally reabsorbed into the body).
What should you do after receiving one?
After the procedure, you’ll most likely feel some mild pain and bruising in your groin. You can reduce this swelling and discomfort with an ice pack, less restrictive undies and over-the-counter painkillers. While the risk of infection is only 2%, it’s important you keep an eye out for any possible side effects.
Dr Blanks recommends that you shouldn’t be lifting anything heavy for at least five to seven days after the procedure, and avoid any vigorous exercise that’ll move your scrotum around for seven to 10 days, like running or cycling. In general, you should avoid exertional activity – which includes sex –for at least a week.
A vasectomy isn’t an instantaneous procedure – it can take up to 20 ejaculations to clear any leftover sperm in your vas deferens. If you receive a vasectomy, you’ll need to have a sperm count test roughly three months later to ensure the procedure has taken hold.
The procedure also won’t affect your testosterone levels, sexual libido or ability to orgasm. However, you’ll still need to use a condom during sex, as a vasectomy won’t prevent sexually transmitted infections.
Are vasectomies reversible?
For the most part, you should treat your vasectomy as permanent, but it is possible to have it reversed. Also known as a vasovasostomy, this reversal process involves the reconnection of the disconnected vas deferens. Compared to the initial procedure, getting your vasectomy reversed is much more complex and will usually require microsurgery in a hospital.
Even with the vas deferens reconnected, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the reversal will be successful. According to Dr Blanks Vasectomies, the success rate for a vasovasostomy sits around the 80 to 90% mark. However, the longer you’ve had the vasectomy, the lower the odds that the reversal will be successful, while the “Chances of a having a successful reversal also rapidly diminish after 10 years”.
Before getting a vasectomy, it’s important you discuss the process with your partner and/or a medical professional.
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