The Truth About Vasectomies
The following article is sponsored by University of Utah Health Care.
By Natalie Dicou
Mike was all set to undergo a vasectomy when a buddy in his golfing foursome started razzing him a couple days before the procedure during a round at a Salt Lake City course.
“He told me I better start learning the tenor part,” said Mike, who has a low voice and sings in his church choir.
The men chuckled, played a few more holes, and then Mike’s tough-guy friend got real. He confided to Mike that he’d had a vasectomy himself a year earlier. It was easy, virtually painless and his sex life hadn’t changed a bit — except now he and his wife enjoy anxiety-free intimacy.
“He had me worried for about half a second,” said the father of two, laughing. “It was a sensitive subject at the time. Once you get it done, you see it’s not a big deal.”
William Brant, M.D., a urologist with University of Utah Health Care, said many men have misconceptions about vasectomy.
“I hear guys say they’re worried that it will decrease their testosterone or hurt their sexual function,” Brant said. “They think the testicle itself is affected. It is not.”
Put simply, vasectomy is a 20-30-minute procedure in which the tubes that transport sperm from the testicles are interrupted, often by cutting a small section of the tube on both sides and then sealing the ends. With nowhere to go, the sperm is absorbed back into the body. Men become infertile 6-8 weeks after the procedure because it takes time and ejaculations to clear the sperm out of the tubes. Since sperm makes up just five percent of the ejaculate, the patient won’t notice a difference in amount.
Pain is another common vasectomy concern. Brant said very little pain is caused by the procedure, which can be performed with a local anesthetic with or without a sedative. As far as recovery time goes, Brant encourages men to relax on the couch for a few days following the procedure and to take it easy for a couple weeks.
That’s exactly what Mike did. He took off Thursday and Friday from work, and by Monday he was back at the office.
Good-natured ribbing from his golf pal aside, Mike said choosing a vasectomy was an easy decision.
“We knew our family was complete,” Mike said. “We didn’t want to have to worry about surprises.”
Vasectomy is one of the most reliable types of birth control.
“In any other form of birth control, the way you know that there was a failure is that there’s a pregnancy,” Brant said. “With a vasectomy, you can tell by the semen analysis. If there’s no sperm, it’s successful.”
One determining factor for Mike was he didn’t want his wife to continue to take birth control pills. Brant agreed vasectomy is an excellent way for men to pull their reproductive weight.
“It’s kind of a nice payback,” Brant said. “Women go through so much in every form of childbirth that it’s something that guys can do with very minimal effort. You can do the same kind of thing for women but it’s invasive.”
While six percent of men choose to reverse their vasectomy, the procedure should be viewed as permanent, Brant said. Reversals aren’t always successful so the decision should be made only if a man is sure he is done having children. Once you’re sure, the only thing left to decide is which sports event to schedule it around.
Brant is one of the physicians who will be performing vasectomies during U Vas Madness, held March 13-27, an event in which University of Utah physicians will perform vasectomies just in time for the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Some hospitals report an increase in vasectomies before major sports events. Why not keep a close eye on your bracket while recovering?
“I should’ve planned it around a sports event but I wasn’t thinking,” Mike said, adding he would’ve chosen the Masters Tournament if he had a do-over.