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Ten months ago I had a vasectomy because I knew I did not want children at any point in my life.
I still regard it as one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself, and if I had to do it over again I would in a heartbeat.
So what exactly is a vasectomy? Well, to really get the definition, let’s trace the word’s etymology. The word “vasectomy” is quite literal in what the procedure entails. The prefix “vas-” refers to the vasa deferentia, the two tubes that connect the testicles to the ejaculatory duct and thus carry the sperm from the testicles where they are manufactured into the semen which then exits the man’s body during ejaculation. The suffix “-ectomy” is the standard Greek suffix meaning “to cut out.” Now, it’s a little bit misleading, because vasectomy doesn’t actually cut out the entire length of the vasa deferentia, but rather just a snippet is taken out. We’ll discuss more about how that’s accomplished later.
First, we’ll discuss the benefits of vasectomy, and there are many. Aside from abstinence, vasectomy is the single most effective form of contraception, being 99.9% effective (making it even more effective than tubal ligation), and most failures happen because couples engage in unprotected sex too soon after the procedure (more on that to come later). Recovery time is usually very fast, and it’s even faster with modern vasectomy techniques. Further, vasectomy is much less invasive than tubal ligation, making it a much safer, affordable procedure than tubal ligation, and also offers women the eliminated risk of side effects due to chemical birth control. Finally, vasectomy will not negatively affect you or your partner’s sex life, so no need to worry about that (and some couples think it enhances their sex life due to not having to worry about unwanted pregnancy).
There are a few downsides to vasectomy as well. The biggest one being that despite being super-effective against unwanted pregnancy, vasectomy does not prevent against sexually transmitted infections, so be sure to continue to use condoms even after you’ve had a vasectomy to protect yourself against STIs. Another downside is that though it’s sometimes reversible, it’s not always, and vasectomy should be regarded as permanent, so be sure you don’t want any more children before having one (and the longer after vasectomy you wait for reversal, the less the chances of success since the body will start producing antibodies that attack the sperm). Occasionally men will develop chronic pain due to the vasectomy, a condition known as Post-Vasectomy Pain Syndrome, but this phenomenon is actually pretty rare. Any surgical procedure comes with a small risk of infection, and vasectomy is no different. Also, the procedure is not immediately effective, and it takes a few months for the sperm to clear out, so be sure to continue to use other forms of contraception until your semen has been tested by a doctor and been verified to be sperm-free. Finally, it was once suggested that vasectomy increased a man’s risk of prostate cancer, but this link has long since been discredited.
Now we’ll talk some about the different methods of vasectomy that are used. There are many subcategories, but they all pretty much fall under one of three general variants: traditional vasectomy (which is age-old and being phased out), no-scalpel vasectomy (the most common today), and no-needle, no-scalpel vasectomy (which is very new technology). Traditional vasectomy involves the use of a needle to inject anesthetic into the vasa deferentia and incision sites, and then two small cuts are made above each vas deferens using a scalpel. They are then lifted out, a piece cut out, and then tied off with clamps, preventing sperm from entering into the upper vasa deferentia. In more recent times, the vasa deferentia are cauterized instead of being clamped, which has resulted in increased efficacy.
The no-scalpel vasectomy is similar to the traditional vasectomy, except for that instead of two incisions being made above the vasa deferentia, one small hole is punctured in the middle of the scrotum where both vasa deferentia are then operated on. This speeds recovery time and eliminates the need for stitches.
The no-needle, no-scalpel vasectomy is cutting-edge technology which takes all the pain and anxiety out of the vasectomy procedure. It’s identical to the no-scalpel vasectomy, except for the anesthetic is delivered using a jet injection system instead of a customary needle-and-syringe. Since the application of anesthetic is by far the worst part of the procedure, this method has eliminated the pain of traditional injections, and each small jet injection feeling akin to a rubber band pop. This cutting-edge method is what my doctor used to perform mine, and I couldn’t be happier with the results or the relative comfort of the procedure, and I absolutely recommend that you seek out a doctor who performs vasectomies using this amazing new technology. The only cautionary note here is this: if you have particularly thick scrotal skin, the jet injection system will not effectively penetrate the scrotal skin and numb the area. However, this isn’t an issue for the vast majority of patients.
Hopefully this guide can help you decide if vasectomy is right for you or your partner. Any man age 18 or over (or the age of consent in your country), with any number of children (including zero) is eligible to have a vasectomy, though if you’re particularly young or have no children, you might have to do some bribing to get your doctor to cave. Don’t give up though, and remember money speaks volumes. If you live in a country that has government-run health care, seek out a private clinic. Yes, you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket, but they are much less likely to refuse. You just really have to be sure this is what you want, and you might be sent to pre-op counseling to verify this, but don’t back down.
I’d like to close this entry by linking to a video of a no-needle, no-scalpel vasectomy. It is rather graphic, so don’t watch it if you have a weak stomach, but in case you were wondering what the procedure is like, there you have it.
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