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Vasectomy? Three things to ask yourself first

June 06, 2012

The question of “Am I ready for a vasectomy?” is becoming more and more frequent among men these days, but the answer still requires some thought.

Not that the procedure is new. Vasectomies have been regarded as a method of birth control for roughly 70 years — since the second World War. Yet for many of those decades, the procedure was used sparingly; many men were uncomfortable with the idea of elective surgery in general and of surgery on their sexual organs in particular.

But today, vasectomies are much more mainstream — a story in USA Today even reported a spike in vasectomies during March Madness, as men timed the procedure so they could get several days off to sit on the couch to watch the games.

Clearly more men are becoming comfortable with the procedure as education about vasectomies is more widely available. Most notable, a vasectomy is a far less invasive operation than tubal ligation is for women.

Still, the procedure has long-term results, and there are still a lot of misconceptions. If you are considering a vasectomy, there are three key questions you should have answered:

  1. Do I want any more children? Make no mistake, vasectomies are considered a permanent and irreversible method of birth control. And while there is a procedure, called a vasovasostomy, that might restore fertility afterward, you should never plan a vasectomy with this later option in mind. Wait.
  2. Will it affect my sexual performance or libido?Many men fear that a vasectomy will hinder sexual performance or drive, but this is simply not the case. In a vasectomy, the two vas deferens are cut to prevent sperm from traveling from the testes to the penis. Nothing in the procedure affects physical sexual performance, and you should still experience an erection and ejaculation. In fact, the testicles continue to produce sperm, but your body absorbs the sperm.
  3. Is sterilization immediate? No. It usually takes a few months before sterility is complete, and 15 to 20 ejaculations are required to clear viable sperm from the reproductive system. You should use birth control until your physician determines you are completely sterile.

A vasectomy is a safe, fast procedure with fewer side effects than tubal ligation. That said, there may be minor complications, including sperm granuloma (a lump caused by leaking sperm where the vas deferens is tied off) and sperm build up or congestion. But these potential side effects occur only in the first few months after the procedure.

Which is why timing also is a major consideration. Whether you want to schedule a vasectomy before March Madness or in the middle of summer, be sure to get a thorough consultation with your physician first.

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