Pondering a Vasectomy?

    Family-Planning Questions Answered

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    While there are many methods of contraception available today, vasectomy is a time-tested, safe, and effective procedure for men.

    A permanent means for preventing pregnancy, a vasectomy is performed by cutting the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testes to the penis. The procedure prevents the man’s sperm from mixing with semen and exiting the penis during ejaculation. After a vasectomy, sperm is still produced, but it dies and is naturally re-absorbed by the body. Vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of birth control, and more than 500,000 vasectomies are performed every year in the United States. Vasectomy is 99.85 percent effective as a birth control method.

    Understandably, some men might be apprehensive about having a vasectomy, but most are relieved to discover a vasectomy actually causes very little pain or discomfort after the procedure, and recovery is typically quick. Also, a vasectomy will not affect a man’s libido, ejaculation, sexual pleasure, or erections.

    When you are considering having a vasectomy, you would meet with a urologist for a consultation and discuss the procedure in detail. Some of the
    most common questions regarding the procedure include:

    Is a vasectomy safe? Yes, vasectomies have been performed since the early twentieth century and it is a very safe procedure. As with any surgical procedure, however, there are some minimal risks of side effects, which your doctor will discuss with you prior to your procedure.

    Will the vasectomy be effective as birth control right away? No, you must use other forms of birth control until your doctor assures you that your vasectomy is completely effective. After the procedure, you will have to check semen samples using an in-home test, or take samples to the lab to determine if sperm are still present. Once your sperm count is zero on two consecutive tests, it is safe to resume sexual intercourse using no other birth control method.

    Will there be pain after a vasectomy?
    A vasectomy actually causes very little pain or discomfort after the procedure, and recovery is typically quick. Surgeons utilize minimally invasive surgical techniques to perform a vasectomy with great precision.

    Will there be problems with achieving an erection or with sexual intercourse following a vasectomy? No, experiencing erectile dysfunction and low libido are common concerns men have following a vasectomy, but research and data do not indicate this is an issue. A vasectomy also will not affect your testosterone (male hormone) levels.

    How long does it take to perform the vasectomy? The procedure typically takes only twenty minutes once your physician has you comfortable and has administered the local anesthetic.

    How long is the recovery? Most men are surprised to learn the procedure is quick and often causes little pain or discomfort. Shortly after the procedure, you will be able to go home. Patients typically return to work in two days, and an icepack placed gently on the scrotum is recommended to reduce any pain or swelling following the procedure. If you do have any discomfort, acetaminophen is recommended.

    Can a vasectomy be reversed? Yes, a vasectomy can be reversed in a procedure appropriately called a vasectomy reversal. Sometimes, life circumstances change and years after having a vasectomy, some men wish to be able to conceive a child naturally with their partner.

    Will insurance cover my vasectomy? Vasectomy procedures are often covered by insurance. However, because coverage varies, you should call your insurance provider to verify your coverage.

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    Joseph H. Ellen, MD
    Joseph H. Ellen II, MD, is a board-certified and fellowship-trained urologist practicing at Virginia Urology. He sees patients in Prince George, Stony Point, and Reynolds Crossing. He grew up in Richmond, attended St. Christopher’s School, and the University of Virginia for undergraduate studies prior to his medical training. He is excited to be back home practicing medicine.