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Should you get a vasectomy?

Is it the right form of birth control for you and your partner?

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Vasectomy is considered to be the most effective method of male sterilisation. It involves the removal of a small section of the vas deferens (the tube along which the sperm travel from the testes to the urethra and then out into the vagina). As sperm must make its way to the vagina in order for the woman to become pregnant, cutting or sealing the vas deferens prevents that journey from being completed.

Vasectomy should be considered to be an irreversible procedure and so if there is any chance in the future that you may want to father a child then other forms of contraception should be considered.

Whilst it is possible to reverse a vasectomy it is not always a successful procedure and so it is imperative that you are absolutely positive that you do not want any (more) children.

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When you approach your GP about a vasectomy it is likely that he will ask about your circumstances and may recommend that you have counselling so that you can be 100% sure about your decision.

If you have a partner it is vital that you discuss the decision with them as it is going to impact both of your lives. Whilst it is not a legal requirement to have your partner's decision it is important (for the sake of your relationship) that you agree.

About the procedure

  • Conventional vasectomy - firstly a local anaesthetic is injected into the scrotum. This may be a little uncomfortable and feel like a bee sting but it is only uncomfortable for a moment. Next, they will make 2 small incisions, one on either side of the scrotum where the tubes (vas deferens) carry sperm from the testicles. They then cut a small section from each tube after which the tubes will be sealed, either by tying them or by sealing them using heat. The machine is known as a hyfrecator. The cuts are then stitched up, usually using dissolving stitches which do not need to be removed.
  • Non-scalpel vasectomy - Again the first step is to numb the area with a local anaesthetic. They then make a tiny puncture in the skin of the scrotum so that they can reach the tubs - they do not need a scalpel to do this. The tubes are then sealed in the same way as the conventional vasectomy. The advantage of this method is that there is little bleeding and no stitches required. It is also thought to be less painful and there is less risk of complications than in conventional vasectomy.

What to expect after the procedure?

  • Nearly everyone will experience some local bruising and swelling with some seepage of a clear yellow fluid after several days.
  • Some people may have blood in the semen after the first few ejaculations.
  • Contraception will be needed for the first 8 - 12 weeks because there will still be sperm present in the tubes leading to the penis.
  • Semen tests (up to two) will be carried out after the procedure to ensure that all the sperm have gone and that the procedure has been successful.
  • As with any surgery, there is a small risk of infection.
  • Be aware that whilst you will be unable to father children the procedure does not protect you from sexually transmitted infection and so if you change your sexual partners it will be necessary to take added precautions against disease.
  • Resuming sexual activity is fine as soon as it is comfortable to do so.

Vasectomy is a very effective and permanent form of birth control and as discussed it should only be considered by people who definitely do not want any more children. In addition, vasectomy will not affect your ability to perform in the bedroom and will not interfere with the pleasurable sensations. You will still be able to achieve an erection and ejaculate it is just that your semen will not contain sperm.

In addition, vasectomy for a man is much less invasive and painful compared to that faced by a woman considering sterilisation which is a much more involved procedure. Finally, vasectomy is a much cheaper option than the female equivalent.

FAQ’s

Will vasectomy affect my sex drive?

The answer is no as your testicles will continue to produce testosterone in the same way as before.

Are there psychological effects associated with vasectomy?

As discussed earlier, it is very important that you put a great deal of thought into the decision because it is a procedure that will permanently render you unable to father children. Remember, there is no rush!

What is the risk of getting cancer as a result of having a vasectomy?

Although it is possible to have testicular and prostate cancer if you have had a vasectomy there is no evidence that it increases the risk.

Can I store sperm in a sperm bank just in case I change my mind?

Theoretically, this is possible but important to remember that frozen sperm does not always remain viable and so may not if it is required at a later date, produce any embryos.

It is also expensive!

In conclusion, whilst vasectomy is a good and reliable form of contraception, it is most important that the decision is not made lightly. If, however, this is the right path for you it can relieve you of the worry of unwanted pregnancy for the rest of your life.

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