Couples who know they are finished having children may be exploring long term methods of birth control, such as vasectomy. A vasectomy is a form of male sterilization that prevents pregnancy.
Most vasectomies are completed by a urologist, who specializes in male and female urinary tracts and male reproductive systems. However, some primary care providers are also trained to complete the procedure.
A Vasectomy Is a Simple, In-office ProcedureA vasectomy can be completed in the doctor’s office with local anesthetic to numb the area of the scrotum where the incision is made. It usually takes about 15 minutes. During the procedure, the doctor cuts the vas deferens, which carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra. Typically, ligation devices such as sutures or clips are placed on the vas and a section is removed. The ends of the vas are also cauterized. While the testicles will still make sperm, it will no longer be ejaculated with the seminal fluid during sex. Dr. Wopat notes that sperm makes up about 2% of semen, so you likely won’t notice a difference in the amount of semen that is ejaculated.
You’ll Need to Use a Backup Form of Birth Control
You won’t be immediately sterile after a vasectomy. According to Dr. Wopat you should refrain from sex or masturbation for a week after a vasectomy. Most urologists recommend another form of birth control for at least three months and 20 ejaculations following vasectomy. After these criteria have been met, a semen analysis is performed to ensure there are no sperm remaining in the semen. Dr. Wopat reports that a vasectomy may fail and need to be redone in less than 1% of cases.
Vasectomy Isn’t Perfect
It’s good to remember that no form of birth control is 100% effective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy after vasectomy is about 0.15%. However, it’s still considered very effective. The risk of pregnancy while using the pill is about 7% and about 13% with condoms. Dr. Wopat notes that a vasectomy does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so it’s still important to use a condom if you have multiple partners.
A Vasectomy Is Permanent
A vasectomy is a permanent form of sterilization. Once the procedure is complete and your doctor has confirmed there are no sperm in your semen, you don’t have to think about birth control again. For men who know they are finished having children, this can take a lot of worry off their minds and give them one less thing to manage.
Reversal Surgery Is Possible
Although a vasectomy is considered a permanent form of birth control, the procedure can be reversed in some cases. A vasectomy reversal requires minimally invasive surgery to reattach the vas deferens tubing. The procedure has a high success rate if done by a surgeon with experience with vasectomy reversal, although that rate drops the longer it’s been since you had your vasectomy. However, a reversal can cost between $5,000 and $10,000, is typically not covered by insurance and it may take up to a year for fertility to be restored. If vasectomy reversal is not possible or not effective, sometimes sperm can be retrieved directly from the testicle and used for in-vitro fertilization.
Vasectomy is safe form of permanent contraception that is easy to perform in an outpatient setting. In general, it is very well tolerated and may be an excellent option for you and your family.
Talk to your primary care provider for a referral for a vasectomy consultation at a Samaritan urology clinic near you.