World Vasectomy Day is an opportunity to educate men about family planning options.
Let’s be honest. Even for the most scientifically-minded of us, it can be uncomfortable to talk about getting a vasectomy. Many of us have a lot of questions, have heard a lot of myths, and don’t know where to look for answers without turning on the browser’s Incognito mode. Luckily, you have us. We cover the who, what, when, where, and why of vasectomies, and tackle some common fears you might have.
At GeekDad, we’re dads. Many of us have had the same questions and concerns you do about vasectomies. Some have even had the procedure.
At GeekDad, we’re also geeks. We like to know everything about a topic. Here, we’ve attempted to answer all your questions in one tidy article, but with citations, so you can learn more.
WHO should get one?
This is the most personal question you’ll have to deal with. The important thing to remember is that both you and your partner need to be in complete agreement.
If you’re sure that you don’t want any more children, a vasectomy is the best form of long-term contraception with a 99.9% success rate.
WHAT is the procedure?
Once you’re sure you want a vasectomy (or you have a few questions remaining), find and contact a physician who can perform the procedure.
You should be well informed before you speak with a physician, but be sure to ask questions on anything you’re unsure about. Sometimes the physician may decide that you’re not ready for a vasectomy.
The key word is “procedure,” not “operation.” The most common form of vasectomy now involves no needle nor scalpel.
REPEAT: NO NEEDLE OR SCALPEL IS NEEDED!
To be honest, this was a huge relief for me. No matter how professional the physician, anyone going to work in that region makes me nervous. Watch this video on how a no-needle, no-scalpel vasectomy is performed. (Don’t worry, it’s all illustrated, not real footage.)
WHEN should I get a vasectomy?
Everyone has a different idea of what kind of family they want. If you’re still in your twenties, consider holding off. There are many testimonials on YouTube of men who regretted having the operation done, then tried to reverse it later in life. Some are successful, while others are not. One GeekDad had a vasectomy while in his 20s, certain he never wanted kids. Years later, he changed his mind and did get a reversal, but having a child still took some time. He’s since had a second vasectomy.
If you’re confident that you have made your contribution to the gene pool and don’t want any more children, that time may be now. It’s not being selfish to remove the chance of more kids in the future. Quite the contrary. A new bundle of joy a few years later can be stressful on the family finances, and midnight feedings get even more exhausting when you’re in your 40s or 50s.
Again, talk about it with your friends, family, and, most importantly, your partner.
WHERE is the procedure performed?
Once you find a physician to perform the vasectomy, it’s usually completed in a clinic. Since it’s an outpatient procedure, you’ll be home the same day. If you know someone who’s had a vasectomy, ask for a recommendation.
WHY should I consider a vasectomy?
The start of family life doesn’t mean the end of your sex life (although those midnight feedings could mean it’s a while before you get your mojo back). Many couples have found that sex was even more pleasurable since the nagging fear of getting pregnant was eliminated.
Taking responsibility for family planning is the job of both partners, and a vasectomy means the man is doing his part in that. Female sterilization is more expensive (due to its more invasive nature) and much more difficult to reverse. In many relationships, the woman has been primarily responsible for family planning, so a number of men feel it’s about time for them to do their part.
Other reasons may include financial considerations (do you want to have a third, fourth, or fifth kid going through college while you’re trying to retire?), or simply helping to limit the human population footprint on our struggling planet.
I have QUESTIONS (well, really, I have FEARS)
I’m a confident guy. I’m modern. I’m a feminist. My wife loves me and I’m confident in my masculinity. But getting sterilized? That digs deep into my most primordial fears. That’s okay. It’s not irrational, and I’m not alone in thinking that.
Vasectomy is the most effective form of contraception with a 99.9% success rate. For that errant 1/1,000 circumstance, most pregnancies happen within the first few months when the body is still working the sperm out of your system. It’s important to continue relying on other methods until given the all-clear from your doctor.
The best thing to do is to talk to friends and family, especially someone who has gone through the procedure. Every man I’ve spoken with who has gone through the procedure is proud of his decision, and will gladly advise you to help alleviate your fears.
If you don’t want to broadcast your intentions, that’s okay. No men I’ve spoken with are ashamed to talk about it, but it might be a bit Too Much Information to share about your private life. Find a physician who will answer all your questions in a professional way. One GeekDad spoke with a doctor about a vasectomy, and he was guided through the whole procedure.
Will it hurt?
Short answer: Yes, of course. Longer answer: Not nearly as much as you think it will. Most men I’ve spoken with say that the pain subsides after about three days, and bruising goes away in about 5-7 days. Every man I spoke with said the pain was never unbearable, even without painkillers. One GeekDad was dancing with his wife at a fundraiser the next night.
What happens to the sperm?
Your body will continue to produce sperm, but after leaving the testes it gets reabsorbed into your body.
As one GeekDad proudly tells his kids, he “closed down the factory, laid off the workers, and had the whole thing rezoned as a recreational area.”
Does a vasectomy affect testosterone levels?
Your testosterone levels are not affected. Different cells in the testes create testosterone, so that part of the factory is still producing and delivering.
Does a vasectomy affect sex drive?
Studies show that there is typically no negative effect on sex drive. In fact, vasectomized men were more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with their relationship. Removing the worry of pregnancy often causes couples to enjoy sex more.
Will it increase my risk of cancer or heart disease?
Short answer: NO. Longer answer: Just no. Many large, professional studies have been done on the long-term effects of vasectomies, and there is no increase in risk between those men who have undergone the procedure and the control group. During my research, I came across one study that showed a slight increase, but as with anything on the Internet, you can find data to prove anything. Nearly every scientific study conducted on the topic shows absolutely zero increase in risk for testicular cancer, prostate cancer, or heart disease.
In fact, the extra attention to that region by your physician can mean that cancer gets treated faster. Because of the vasectomy, doctors are more likely to do tests that reveal early signals.
Does a vasectomy protect me or my partner from STD’s/STI’s?
No. STD’s like HIV can still be transmitted in the ejaculate. If STI’s are a risk, continue taking appropriate precautions the same as you did before a vasectomy.
How much will this cost?
Most medical insurance plans will actually cover the some or all of the cost of a male vasectomy. In Canada, the procedure is fully covered by provincial Health Care. There may be a “kit” the physician sends home with you to help you recover, but it’s generally discouraged to charge for this.
The overall cost I’ve found is anywhere from free (if covered by your health plan) up to $600. You also might want to take a day or two off of work if you can’t arrange to do this over a weekend. Most men I’ve spoken with report about three days until the pain fully subsides.
Can it be reversed?
Yes. However, it’s not guaranteed. It’s also typically about 10x more expensive and not always covered by your health plan.
How invasive and time-consuming is the procedure?
Vasectomies are typically done with no needle and no scalpel. It’s an outpatient procedure, so you can recover at home. (Although you should bring someone else to drive.)
A local anesthetic is applied by spray, and you’re awake during the procedure. One GeekDad reported an awkward conversation with a doctor who offered to let him “feel around” during the procedure. He was lucid enough to decline.
The procedure will take 30-60 minutes. Including paperwork, you should be in and out of the office in a few hours.
What about those horror stories I read on the internet?
I found a lot of uncomfortable stories out there, but they’re all anecdotal and–when posted on a forum–could be truth or creative fiction.
While also anecdotal, every man I’ve spoken with who underwent the procedure reported no complications from the procedure. Once again, I’ll tell you to get out there and talk to real people about it and not focus on alleged stories you find online.
One GeekDad does report have some pain during “O-time.” It’s not every time, it’s only minor pain, and it has not affected his opinion about deciding to get a vasectomy.
As with any surgical procedure, there are going to be risks. Avoid the forums, and look to real sources of information:
If you only read one thing:
Vasectomy is an uncomfortable topic. It can shake you on a primordial level. However, this is sterility, not impotence. Your sex life should not be affected for the worse, and may actually become better.
One GeekDad stated he believes “this is the guy’s duty” when a couple is in a monogamous relationship and don’t want any more kids. He has a point; the procedure is simple, typically requires no needle or scalpel, has a short recovery time, and is usually covered by medical insurance or health care benefits. Most importantly, BOTH partners in your relationship benefit.
Talk with your partner about it. Talk to friends and family, and get advice from someone who has gone through the procedure. Talk to a doctor to get facts. It’s okay that you feel awkward, but it is wrong to ignore the benefits if you’re ready to take a step back from having more children just because it’s an uncomfortable conversation.
You’re a Geek, Dad. Get the facts.
Thank you to all the GeekDads, GeekMoms, family, and friends who shared their experiences with me as I built this resource: Matt Blum, Rory Bristol, Will James, Jim MacQuarrie, Brian McLaughlin, Colin Kish, and more.