Vasectomy: A Gift of Love
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Vasectomy: A Gift of Love

Separating myths from facts about vasectomy

Despite various aspects of health care being discussed in the reform bill controversy, including different subjects surrounding abortion and contraception, one subject has not been addressed with respect to contraception: vasectomies. I will not wager a guess as to why that is. Instead, my aim here is to address what a vasectomy is, why it is important, and dispel a few myths about the procedure in the process.

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure designed to make a man sterile by cutting or blocking both the right and left vas deferens, the tubes through which sperm pass into the ejaculate.

Put simply, a vasectomy is a form of permanent birth control for men. There are many different possible reasons a man would consider having a vasectomy - the primary reason being that he doesn't want any (more) children.While a reversal procedure is available (called a vasovasostomy), the decision to undergo a vasectomy procedure is not one to be taken lightly, and should be considered permanent.

When discussing permanent contraception with one's partner, different options should be discussed for the most appropriate form of birth control specific to individual circumstances. If the desired outcome is permanent contraception, there are three choices: permanent abstinence, tubal ligation, or vasectomy. Permanent abstinence, between a committed couple, is neither realistic to expect nor likely to work. Which leaves the latter two choices.

A tubal ligation is also a surgical procedure that effectively sterilizes women. However, when compared with a vasectomy, the expense is far greater, and the risks are higher. A tubal ligation involves "conventional hospitalization, general anesthesia and lengthier, more complicated surgery than a vasectomy" since the majority of tubal ligations are performed laparoscopically (intra-abdominal). It is a procedure that requires "several hours of hospital recovery time and days of recuperation. The potential serious risks with this type of surgery include perforation of the intestine, infection, complications from anesthesia and even pulmonary embolism. Less serious but more frequent are the long-term side effects of tubal ligation. These include painful menstrual cycles, pelvic pain and a controversial complication that is still under study, called "post tubal ligation syndrome.""

By contrast, the vasectomy procedure poses fewer risks, since it is performed on an outpatient basis, completed in less than half an hour with a local anesthetic. There is almost no risk of serious complications and no proven long-term complications to vasectomy. There are some minor risks and possible complications, which include sperm granuloma formation, sperm congestion (causing soreness), epididymitis, sperm antibody development -- and two very rare possible complications are vas deferens reconnection and long-term testicular discomfort.

So why is there ever a question, given the two choices? Unfounded fears and myths surrounding the idea of vasectomies.

Myth Number One. Having a vasectomy will make me less of a man.

Fact: Having the testicular fortitude to spare your partner an unnecessary surgery fraught with possible complications actually makes you more of a man. Further, sperm does not a man make anyway. All that is affected by the surgical procedure is sperm's ability to make its way out of the body. That's it. Sperm production continues regardless of the procedure.

Myth Number Two. Having a vasectomy will impact my ability to have sex.

Fact: A vasectomy does not affect your ability to obtain or maintain an erection, nor does it inhibit orgasms. You will still be able to enjoy sex as before, and your semen will not look any different than before the procedure.

Myth Number Three. A vasectomy increases my chances of having other sexual health problems.

Fact: A vasectomy has no bearing on any other aspect of sexual health. Some men wrongly believe that vasectomies have caused prostate cancer or heart diseases. Medical studies have debunked this myth. However, one important key to bear in mind is that while having a vasectomy is permanent contraception, it does nothing to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Myth Number Four. A vasectomy will decrease my libido.

Fact: Only for the days immediately following the procedure, and this decrease in libido has nothing to do with male hormones. Rather, after any surgical procedure, mild discomfort lowers anyone's sex drive - but that is temporary. In the case of vasectomy, temporary means a few days. That's it. Beyond that, a vasectomy has no impact whatsoever on male hormone levels. This means that hair distribution, voice depth, and yes, sex drive remains the same following the procedure.

Myth Number Five. A vasectomy will improve my relationship.

Fact: If there were problems before the vasectomy, chances are there will be problems afterward. A vasectomy is not a relationship solver - it is a form of permanent contraception only. The only part of your life that a vasectomy alters is your physical ability to father a child. Relationship issues are beyond the scope of the surgical procedure, and your better bet is to visit a relationship counselor for that.

An important point to remember about a vasectomy is that following the procedure, some active sperm does remain in the system, and will require time and numerous ejaculations before your semen examination shows clear of sperm. During the interim until the sperm count is eliminated, a secondary form of contraceptive is strongly suggested.

None of this is intended to replace consulting your physician. If you are considering a vasectomy, discuss the matter with your doctor. Your doctor can recommend and/or refer you to a urologist.

Sources:

Med Terms, 2009. Vasectomy.

Post Tubal Ligation Syndrome, 2008.

Charles E. Shapiro, M.D., et al., 2004. Vasectomy: Permanent Birth Control for Men.

Surgery Encyclopedia, 2009. Tubal ligation, Vasovasostomy.

Vas Centers, 2002. Tubal Ligation vs. Vasectomy

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Comments (12)

great article, I choose to have a tubaligation, I wanted control over my own body.

Thanks! :) My intent was to have a tubal after delivering the 3rd, but with the various complications during that delivery (ended up C-section), temporary insanity kicked in and I completely forgot about it. The only way I'd feel safe with a tubal would be during that particular process (post-delivery), since the recovery is parallel with post-partum recovery. Separately, though? I know women who have done it, and their recoveries are pretty horrific. Generally, tubal ligation is a comparatively safe invasive surgery -- but between the two procedures (tubal and vasectomy), there is no question that a vasectomy is safer. *nod*

my uncle had a vasectomy and was one of the poor souls who had a bad reaction to it and was hospitalized, he penis had swollen beyond recognition so to speak and forget what else now.

Oh yes, I have read about the rare reactions - fortunately they are very rare. I'm sorry for your uncle, though. Yikes.

Good job on this! I wrote one that that is a counter point to this article. It should be published today. It's called Vasectomy: Regret, reversal and sperm killing antibodies. I referenced your factoid at the end of mine. They mesh well. By the way, I'm going to switch around your title. SEO-wise, you should put the keyword first. Great job! Our articles should spark an interesting discussion.

@ Carol: I was in the same boat as your uncle. It blew up to the same size as my leg. Was I relieved when all the swelling went away it returned to being the size of my arm...he he he ;-)

Thanks Kevin! I'm cool with the switch in the title (I'm still learning the SEO thing, so I'm on a curve right now *blush*). I'm looking forward to reading your article. As much as I've read into the procedures, I know there are risks (as with any surgical procedure) - but from everything I've read (and talking with urologists) the comparative numbers are extremely low. I guess that means that no matter what the odds are, someone's gonna cash that lottery ticket. As with Carol's uncle - I'm also sorry that it happened to you, even if your arm-sized is still safe. Hehe...

LOL. Save your pity. It was all a lie just to segway into that corny joke! The procedure was a breeze. Worst thing was a minor abrasion on my neck from the cone I had to wear till the sutures melted. -I'll stop now!

Yikes ya got me!~ LOL...bad... :D

If you are considering a vasectomy get the modern scalpel free version with an experienced surgeon. Please do due diligence and make sure your surgeon is experienced in this technique.

Thanks for mentioning that, Marc! When my husband had his, it wasn't scalpel-free, but his surgeon was highly experienced...and the procedure/recovery went very smoothly. There have been no ill after-effects whatsoever. Still, I will look into the scalpel-free procedure for a future addendum to this article (have been way behind here due to academic studies). Anyway, thanks again!

My dad had a vasectomy after my mom had 3 children but guess what, he didn't wait until he was fully healed and I got another sister out of it. If families don't want any more children they must be prepared to wait awhile so they can heal up good or the same could happen to anyone. At least this is what the doctor told them.

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