The Big Snip: Vasectomy 101

Get all the facts about this popular, and sometimes cringe-inducing, permanent method of birth control


Vasectomy. The very word can strike fear into the hearts of men. But this routine procedure is not as scary as you might think.

What Is A Vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a simple medical procedure used to sterilize a man. The vas deferens—the duct that transports sperm from the testicles to the urethra—is cut so sperm cannot reach the semen during ejaculation. Once semen is free of sperm, it cannot fertilize an egg. As the testicles continue producing sperm, the body breaks them down and absorbs them.

Why Do It?

It’s a reliable (98.85% effective, to be exact) and safe (chances of infection are low) birth control option, unlike tubal ligation, which is more complicated and riskier for women. You won’t need to spend time and money on contraception or worry about your wife getting pregnant. And you can breathe a sigh of relief: having a vasectomy won’t impede your ability to get or sustain an erection or your sexual performance, nor does it reduce your testosterone levels and sex drive.

When to Do It

If you’ve carefully weighed the pros and cons of not becoming a parent (or having more kids) with your partner and have no reservations about going under the knife, then a vasectomy is the right choice for you. Although it’s possible for a vasectomy to be reversed, there are no guarantees as the reversal procedure is costly, complicated and only successful about 50 percent of the time. Sterilization is better suited to couples in long-term and committed relationships who don’t need to protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.

What to Expect

A family doctor, urologist or surgeon can perform the operation in 20 to 30 minutes at a doctor’s office or clinic. You’re awake for the duration of the procedure so a sedative could be administered to help you relax. A local anesthesia is injected into the scrotum and one to two incisions are made to the testicles. Each vas deferens is cut and tied, stitched, cauterized or clamped and the openings are closed with dissolvable stitches. You may experience a pulling sensation as the doctor works but you will experience little to no pain. There is a short recovery period in post-opt before you’re free to return home.

Your physician will prescribe painkillers and recommend that you wear tight-fitting underwear or a jockstrap to help alleviate discomfort and protect your groin. Lie on your back for the rest of the day and apply an ice pack to your genitals. Swelling, bruising and minor pain in your scrotum are a normal part of the healing process. Return to work in one to two days but don’t engage in strenuous activity, like roughhousing with your kids or exercise, for two to three weeks.

You should abstain from intercourse for at least a week after surgery. If you have sex too soon, you’ll regret your decision to get jiggy with it: the pain in your scrotum will be excruciating post-coitus. Once you’re comfortable enough to resume sex, don’t forget to use contraception. It takes at least three months or more for the sperm left in your body to be reabsorbed so your significant other can—surprise!—still get pregnant. It’s crucial to schedule follow-up visits with your doctor to check your sperm count. The semen analysis needs to read “zero” swimmers before you can forgo birth control for good, so don’t jump the gun!

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