Vasectomy: Male Sterilization To Prevent Unintended Pregnancies

By:    Published: October 9, 2011

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A vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed on the male reproductive organs to prevent unintended pregnancies. The procedure is considered a form of birth control since it prevents a male who has undergone the procedure from releasing sperm during ejaculation. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a vasectomy is considered to be safer and less costly than female sterilization and is just as effective at preventing pregnancies. It should be noted that once a vasectomy has been performed, chances of reversal are slim; therefore, it should be considered a permanent method for male sterilization.

What is a Vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a fairly simple medical procedure where the tube connecting the testicles to the urethra is either clamped, cut or sealed to stop sperm from the testicles from mixing with semen and exiting the penis upon ejaculation. The tube is also known as the vas deferens, and since it is the only part of the male reproductive organs that is altered, the male is still able to produce semen in the testicles. Since the semen is no longer released through the urethra, it is reabsorbed by the body the same way it would be if the male has not ejaculated for some time, even without a vasectomy.

Once the vasectomy is complete and the male patient has recovered from his sterilization procedure, he will be able to resume regular intercourse. Since the vas deferens are clamped, cut or blocked sometime before the seminal vesicles and prostate, the male should still ejaculate the same amount of fluid than before the vasectomy.

It should be noted that there could be remaining sperm within the male's reproductive organs for up to several months that have not been reabsorbed by the body or released through ejaculation before the vasectomy. This means the male may still be able to transfer sperm and impregnate his partner unless some other form of birth control is used. According to WebMD, males who have undergone a vasectomy should be using another method of birth control with their partner until their semen is tested for zero sperm count.

Procedure

The actual surgical procedure for a vasectomy is quite simple with an estimated operating time of roughly 30 minutes. The entire procedure is so simple, it can be done in an office or clinic of a family health practitioner. Most patients are able to go home the same day of the procedure and recovery time is expected to take about a week after the vasectomy has been performed. The actual procedure is performed as follows:

  • The patient's scrotum and testicles are cleaned and shaved for surgery.
  • Patients may be given medication, either orally or intravenously, to induce sleep and help the patient relax before operating.
  • Each tube, or vas deferens, is located and a local anesthetic is injected.
  • The doctor will make a surgical incision through the scrotum and will cut the vas deferens tubes.
  • The cut ends of the tubes are either tied, stitched or sealed.
  • The doctor returns the vas deferens inside the scrotum and the incision is sealed with stitches.

Effectiveness

A vasectomy is considered to be one of the most effective forms of birth control, with an estimate of 15 out of 10,000 couples experiencing a pregnancy within the first year after a vasectomy, according to the NIH. Because the procedure is less costly and not as complicated as procedures for female sterilization, it is typically recommended as the preferable form of sterilization for couples looking to prevent unintended pregnancies. Vasectomies are also a one-time procedure, where further surgery is not needed.

Risks

Men who are looking into male sterilization through a vasectomy need not worry about the operation's effects on their ability to perform intercourse. A vasectomy is a very minor surgical procedure and is fairly safe. However, there are still the risks of complications like any other type of surgery, which includes infection and excessive pain.

It should also be noted that while a vasectomy is effective as a form of birth control, it does not protect the individual from sexually transmitted diseases, like HIV/AIDS. Therefore, those who have undergone a vasectomy should continue to practice safe sex.

The greatest risk a couple might face after the male partner has undergone a vasectomy is regret. Men who have a vasectomy will never be able to father a child. While vasectomy reversal is possible, it is a fairly difficult procedure that can be quite costly and may not always work. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted studies where women admitted having feelings of regret for a partner's vasectomy.

Bottom Line

While a vasectomy is a simple and effective means of male sterilization and preventing unintended pregnancies, couples should consider every other option of birth control available. If you are considering a vasectomy procedure, talk to your health care provider about potential risks and alternative options that are not permanent to avoid feelings of regret later down the road.

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