Birth control is typically associated with women’s health – but are there birth control options for men, too? You bet – our experts at Mission Urology weigh in.
Vasectomy is a popular form of birth control for men that is highly successful, reliable and low-risk – approximately 500,000 men in the US choose to have a vasectomy a year. It is a simple office surgery most commonly performed by urologists. It works by keeping sperm out of the fluid released from the penis during intercourse.
Before you go any further and you’re thinking a vasectomy is an option for you – keep in mind that a vasectomy is permanent. Although it can be reversed through microsurgery, this is an important factor to consider.
Vasectomy is an office-based procedure that takes 15-30 minutes. It is performed with the patient taking an oral medication one hour prior to the procedure to help the patient relax.
A local anesthetic is injected into the skin and along the vas deferens. Then, to reach the tubes, the doctor makes an incision in the scrotum. A small section of each tube is removed, and the ends are tied, clipped or cauterized to seal them. Some discomfort may be felt when the local anesthetic is injected or when the tubes are brought into the incision.
Different techniques are performed for the sterilization part of the procedure, but typically a segment of the vas deferens is cut and removed, and surgical clips are used to maintain closure of the cut ends. Mission Urology performs the “no scalpel” technique in which the skin is punctured with a sharp instrument intended to help reduce bleeding.
After the procedure
Men need to continue to use another form of birth control as it does take time and approximately 20 ejaculations to clear the sperm from the ejaculate. After a vasectomy, the body harmlessly absorbs the sperm.
Semen without sperm cannot cause women to become pregnant. Sperm only contribute a very small amount to the male ejaculate, and therefore the volume of ejaculation after the procedure will be about the same.
As with any surgery, there is some discomfort after the operation. Men should expect to have some minor bruising and swelling for one week and need to limit activity during this time. However, most men say the pain is “slight” or “moderate” and is easily relieved with athletic support, ice and an over-the-counter pain medication.
The recovery time for the procedure is usually limited to a day or two of rest, and men should avoid strenuous labor or exercise for three to five days.
Determining if a vasectomy is right for you
The most common misconception about vasectomy is that it affects masculinity. It is very unlikely that the procedure will affect sexuality, sexual pleasure or one’s ability to have or keep an erection. Major complications are rare and some minor risks include infection, scrotal bruising or swelling and transient pain. If you’re curious about vasectomy and believe it’s a good option for you, you have resources close to home in WNC with Mission Urology.
Most urologists require a visit before the surgery to discuss the procedure, to review its risks and benefits, and to make sure the patient is comfortable with his decision. Overall, the vasectomy is an excellent and reliable procedure with minimal side effects, and is well-tolerated by the vast majority of men.
Brian Cohen, MD, MPH, is a physician at Mission Urology specializing in urogynecology. Scott Sech, MD, FACS, is a physician with Mission Urology.