4 facts to know before having a vasectomy

For more information about your reproductive health rights and related federal resources, you can visit the US Government’s Reproductive Rights site.

From the United States Supreme Court quashed Roe v. Wadethe whole country wondered about the modalities of the decision will affect our health care and the consequences to which one would expose oneself if one sought online abortion services. This decision does not only affect women and also concerns gender-expansive or non-binary people, trans men and intersex people. There has also been a significant increase in the number of men requesting and scheduling vasectomies with their doctors, The Washington Post reported. A vasectomy is a sterilization procedure that prevents sperm from leaving the body to prevent pregnancy from occurring.

Although vasectomies are safe, it is still a surgical procedure that should not be taken lightly. If you’re interested in a vasectomy, it’s best to discuss it first with a primary care physician or urologist to make sure it’s the best option for you. After all, it is a permanent form of contraception and it is not necessarily suitable for everyone. Keep reading to learn more about vasectomies and if you’re the right candidate for one.

There are two types of vasectomies: the incisional method and the no-scalpel method.

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How does a vasectomy work?

A vasectomy is a permanent minimally invasive sterilization procedure. This is done by cutting the tubes connected to the testicles, known as the vas deferens, which carry sperm. A vasectomy prevents sperm from being released into the semen. The contraceptive method is considered 99.9% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Dr. Stanton Honig, urologist and director of the Male Reproductive Health/Sexual Medicine Program at Yale Medicine, says it’s a safe and effective procedure. “A vasectomy is usually done in your doctor’s office under local anesthesia and only takes 15 minutes,” he says. There are two types of vasectomies: the incisional method and the no-scalpel method. The incision method is done using a scalpel to make one or two small incisions in the skin of the scrotum. Through these cuts, the vas deferens are located, also cut, and their ends are sealed by tying themselves or using an electric current called cauterization, followed by a single stitch on the skin to close the incision.

The no-scalpel method makes a small puncture in the scrotum using a hemostat (a forceps-like instrument) instead of using a scalpel. This is the preferred method because it seals the vas deferens in the same way as the incision method, but it does not require stitches and reduces the risk of excessive bleeding, infections, or other complications.

As for the healing process, Honig says the healing is fast enough that you may be allowed to exercise two weeks after the procedure. The pain relievers provided after the procedure are usually nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, such as Tylenol or Advil.

In rare circumstances, there may be a small risk of bleeding and infection and mild long-term pain. But Honig insists the risks are minimal and says, “There are no long-term effects on the general health of men who have had a vasectomy.” And in case you were wondering, there is no negative effect on your sexual performance either. Honig remarks, “in fact, sometimes things get better since the anxiety of an unwanted pregnancy is taken out of the script.”

Keep in mind that a vasectomy is not officially allowed until three months later, when a patient undergoes a semen analysis. Patients are advised to use other forms of contraception until they can confirm that their vasectomy was successful. “Once a patient does a semen analysis that shows no sperm or less than 100,000 nonmotile sperm in the ejaculate, the chance of pregnancy is still 1 in 2000,” Honig says.

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Health insurance usually helps cover the cost of a vasectomy.

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How much does a vasectomy cost?

Most vasectomies are covered by your health insurance and according to Planned Parenthood can cost up to $1,000, depending on the type of vasectomy you get and where you have it done. “It’s cheaper to have a vasectomy than for insurance companies to pay for another pregnancy and a new family member,” Honig says.

Compared to the alternative option for women having a tubal ligation (when the fallopian tubes are sealed), a vasectomy is just as effective, cheaper, less invasive, and has a faster recovery time. “A lot of men think it’s their turn to help with family planning,” Honig observes.

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Men who undergo a vasectomy are usually married fathers who have finished childbearing.

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Who should have a vasectomy?

Honig says people who choose to have a vasectomy are usually married and do so after they’ve finished having children. A 2018 study showed that the average age of men undergoing vasectomy is 36 in rural areas and 37 in large cities. These men also tend to have one to three children when they make the decision to have surgery. More recent research from the American Journal of Men’s Health shows that the average age range for men who undergo vasectomy is between 30 and 56 years old. Additionally, 90% of men who undergo the procedure are white and married with children.

Honig cautions that it’s important not to take a vasectomy lightly. If you choose to do this, you should be 100% sure that you are done having children. “Regret is higher among men who don’t have children, especially those who are very young,” he says. Instead, he thinks a better approach for younger men learning about vasectomy is to opt for other, non-permanent options, such as using birth control.

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Vasectomies are reversible, but they can be expensive and require a hospital visit.

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Can a vasectomy be reversed?

Vasectomies can be reversed and typically have a 50-70% success rate if later in life you decide you want a child (or children). However, it’s important to keep a specific timeframe in mind if you choose to reverse it. “The success rate is usually better if the patient is within 10 years of the vasectomy,” Honig says, but he says it can still be successful in patients who are further away as well.

As an alternative, instead of reversal, Honig suggests sperm retrieval combined with in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where a single sperm is injected directly into the cytoplasm of the egg for fertilization.

“Patients should research who has extensive microsurgical experience in vasectomy reversals in their area for the best results,” he advises. One important thing to keep in mind is that a vasectomy reversal is more expensive and more complicated than having one. It is performed in a hospital and must be performed by a doctor experienced in microsurgical techniques and can take up to four hours. Insurance companies usually don’t cover the cost, which means you’ll have to pay out of pocket for a procedure that can cost thousands of dollars. It depends on your location and where you had it done, so it requires careful research to get the best treatment.

At the end of the line

As with any permanent procedure, you should weigh the pros and cons before having a vasectomy. If you’re done having children, chances are this is a better option for you than if you haven’t started yet and might change your mind later. If you later decide on a reversal, it’s important to do your research to make sure you’re getting the most qualified doctor who can provide the best experience. It’s also an investment, so it’s important to consider your financial situation and whether you’ll be able to cover the costs.

Hence, why it’s important to be certain that a vasectomy is something you want to do permanently. Either way, it’s a useful option to have on the table if you’re looking for a definitive birth control solution that doesn’t break the bank or negatively impact your health.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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