What you need to know about getting a vasectomy

It’s a quick, simple and highly effective means of avoiding unplanned pregnancies.

07 May 2015
by Annie Brookstone

While it takes two to tango, there’s no denying that the onus is still largely on women when it comes to taking responsibility for contraception. The reasoning is straightforward: they’re the ones who run the risk of falling pregnant and so most birth control methods – from the pill through to contraceptive injections, patches and implants – focus largely on what is happening within the female partner’s body.

While one can’t ignore the role condoms play in preventing pregnancy, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that condom use still has an 18 percent failure rate, meaning that 18 in 100 women using this as their primary means of contraception will fall pregnant. 

Vasectomy, however, is an elective same-day surgical procedure that places the ball very much in the male partner’s court by offering a safe and highly reliable means of contraception – the CDC reports a less than one percent failure rate. Yet, for the most part, vasectomies are still discussed in hushed tones and with trepidation. Is it really that big a deal? Read below and make your mind up.

The procedure

A vasectomy entails snipping and sealing the vasa deferentia (singular: vas deferens), the tubes that carry sperm from the epididymis (where sperm cells are stored) to the ejaculatory ducts ahead of ejaculation.

A bilateral vasectomy takes roughly 20 to 30 minutes and employs various techniques including a single midline incision or two lateral incisions. There is also a ‘no scalpel’ technique whereby the vasa deferentia are clamped in a ring before the skin is opened. Usually a segment of the vas (one centimetre) is removed. The ends of the vasa are then ligated, cauterised and separated from each other by a fascial (tissue) interposition.

The procedure can be done under local anaesthetic, conscious sedation or general anaesthetic.

The risks

There are risks associated with all surgeries. The most common ones when it comes to a vasectomy are bruising and discomfort. Rarely this surgery has lead to vasectomy failure. 

Generally though, most men are discharged from hospital on the same day and are able to go back to work within a day. A week off exercise and physical activity (including intercourse) is recommended, although this may be longer if discomfort arises from these activities.

It is also essential that another form of contraception be used in the weeks following the procedure as it takes some time for the remaining sperm to be cleared. Then it's crucial that a post-vasectomy semen analysis is done at about four months after the vasectomy to confirm success of the procedure.

Can it be reversed?

While the procedure can be reversed, this is more complicated and not always 100 percent successful. 

IMAGE CREDIT: 123rf.com