Everything you need to know about a vasectomy, including tips like making the most of your rebound by planning it during basketball season / By Jill Case
Why the basketball terminology to describe a vasectomy? For one thing, according to Dr. Stephen Jones, a Cleveland Clinic urologist, there can be as much as a 50 percent spike in vasectomies during March Madness. Dr. Michael McClelland, a urologist at Urology Austin, thinks getting the operation during the tournament makes a lot of sense.
“If somebody [has the operation]on a Thursday, then he can sit around on a couch and watch basketball all weekend and usually be pretty happy,” he says.
You’re probably thinking that the words “vasectomy” and “happy” don’t seem to go together, but knowing that you are contributing to your relationship by providing a virtually foolproof form of birth control might make you happier in the long run.
What to Expect
First of all, a vasectomy is considered to be a permanent form of sterilization because it prevents you from releasing sperm when you ejaculate. Secondly, it is a relatively short operation (about 20 to 30 minutes) that is performed either in a physician’s office or a surgical center. Patients can usually return to work in two to three days. Most doctors perform two types of vasectomies: the conventional type, and the no-scalpel technique. During a conventional vasectomy, the physician numbs the scrotum using a local anesthetic and then makes one or two small incisions in the scrotum. Then, the vas deferens is pulled out, cut and the ends are sealed. Finally, the incisions are stitched up with one or two dissolvable stitches. A no-scalpel vasectomy is conducted in the same manner, but instead of using a scalpel to make the cut, the physician uses a special instrument to make a small opening in the scrotum, proceeds in the same manner and there may or may not be a need for stitches. Dr. McClelland says patients don’t really notice the difference in the two techniques.
“In terms of pain and recovery, everyone does equally well, in my opinion,” he says. Some men get pretty nervous about the needles used for the anesthesia. While some doctors use a new no-needle technique to numb the scrotum (this method uses a jet or pressure injector to deliver a spray of anesthetic), Dr. McClelland says the traditional method of delivering anesthesia with a needle is still most common and should not make men anxious. A substance is added to the syringe that cuts down on the burning, and the discomfort from the shot only lasts a couple seconds. Dr. McClelland encourages his patients to listen to music to help them relax during the procedure.
“The procedure itself should be relatively pain-free,” he says. “The psychological aspect of it for a lot of guys is the worst part of the whole procedure.”
As far as recovery goes, it shouldn’t be too painful or long. You should expect to have some swelling and bruising in the area of the surgery, and Dr. McClelland recommends bags of frozen peas be used as ice packs to reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. The bruising and swelling should only last about two weeks. After the operation, you will need to limit your physical activity while you are healing. Dr. McClelland recommends “not lifting anything heavier than a remote control” for a week. Most men with desk jobs will be able to return to work in two to three days, but men who have physical jobs involving lifting, or a lot of walking or driving will need to consult with their doctor as to when to return to work.
One very important thing to keep in mind during your recovery is that a vasectomy is not effective immediately. Men and their partners need to continue to use birth control until they have provided their doctor with (usually) two sperm-free ejaculations before they can be sure that they cannot impregnate a woman. This usually takes three months or longer (or about 15 to 20 ejaculations).
Making the Decision
Since a vasectomy is a permanent form of birth control, men need to give the operation some serious thought before proceeding. While vasectomies can be reversed, this is not always successful, and the longer the time between your vasectomy and the attempted reversal, the less chance there is of a successful reversal of the operation. Dr. McClelland likes to have a pre-surgery consultation with his patients in which he discusses the risks and benefits of the surgery.
No matter when you decide to schedule your vasectomy, you might just find that you are scoring more often when you take the burden of worrying about birth control away from the woman in your life.
“I strongly encourage [patients], if they are married or in a relationship, to talk to their spouse or their significant other to make sure that everybody’s on board with this,” he says. “I really like people to think about what I’m doing.”
Another thing that men may want to consider is banking sperm before the operation. This can be a reassuring option for many men who may be concerned that their situation might change and they might want to father a child at a later date. This is also something Dr. McClelland discusses with his patients.
“It’s not an inexpensive process, but it’s a nice insurance policy if somebody wants to have something available,” he says.
Now that you know the pros and cons, maybe you’re convinced that this is the birth control method for you, but what if you don’t like basketball and the whole March Madness thing isn’t your cup of tea? Don’t worry; Dr. McClelland suggests scheduling your operation during golf season instead.
“[Scheduling] right around The Masters is pretty common too,” he says. “[Guys] will schedule the procedure on Thursday or Friday and sit around and watch golf all weekend.”
Myths about Vasectomies with Dr. Michael McClelland
Myth: Vasectomies cause erectile dysfunction, or sex will never be the same after the operation.
Truth: The answer to these is everything goes back to the way it was beforehand. There are no long-term sexual side effects to it.
Myth: Vasectomies raise the risk of prostrate or other cancers.
Truth: There were some early studies that showed that prostate cancer may be increased, but that’s been refuted.
Dr. Michael McClelland is a board certified urologist with Urology Austin. For more information, visit urologyaustin. com. For more information about vasectomies, visit urologyhealth.org.