The Vasectomy: A Simple But Permanent Procedure
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The Vasectomy: A Simple But Permanent Procedure

The vasectomy is a surgical operation that cuts and ties the duct that carries the sperm from the testes to the penis. Vasectomies do not affect sexual performance, but the semen produced at ejaculation no longer contains sperm.

?A vasectomy is the procedure by which a man is rendered permanently unable to have children. It is a simpler operation than the sterilization of a woman and is growing in popularity as men increasingly accept responsibility for family planning. Some men are concerned that a vasectomy will affect their libido or masculinity, but this is not the case. Its only effect is to stop reproduction.

A vasectomy consists of cutting and tying the vas deferens (the two tiny tubes that transport the sperm from the testicles to the penis) so that the sperm is prevented from forming part of the semen ejaculated during intercourse. Sperm is only about 5% of the seminal fluid, the other 95% being supporting and nourishing fluid which remains unchanged by the vasectomy.

The operation requires only a local anesthetic and takes about 15 minutes. A tiny incision is made in the skin of the scrotum and each vas, which lies just under the surface, is cut. Usually a small section is removed and the two cut ends tied off and sealed. The operation is painless although there will probably be some bruising and soreness for a few days afterwards.

The man does not become sterile immediately. Some sperm are stored in the sac above where the tube is tied, and this must be emptied by about a dozen ejaculations over the next few weeks. A test, called a 'sperm count', is normally done about six weeks after the operation to check that no sperm are getting through or remain in storage. Other forms of contraception should be used until this has been carried out and is clear.

The male hormones that establish and maintain masculinity are produced in the testicles, but these enter the bloodstream directly and are not affected in any way by the operation. The sperm themselves continue to be produced and are simply absorbed into the body without causing any problems.

As with tubal ligations, micro-surgical techniques are constantly being improved so that increasingly it is possible for a vasectomy to be reversed. The success rate is higher than with a tubal ligation but by no means high enough for a couple to be able to regard it as anything but a possibility. A decision about a vasectomy needs to be taken on the basis that it is permanent and that should their marriage break down or a child die the man will be unable to have further children.

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