Vasectomy

The vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure which acts as a form of ‘permanent' contraception for men who don't want any more children. The procedure may be of interest to men who are already parents or who are in relationships with women who don't want kids. Today's women are becoming increasingly aware of their health and the effects hormones may have on their bodies. Therefore some couples prefer a vasectomy to a hormone-based contraceptive for the woman or to condoms, which some people find reduce the pleasure of sex.

Who Is A Candidate?

Any adult male can have a vasectomy but doctors may try to discourage young men, or men who have not yet had children, from doing so. Vasectomies may be reversed depending upon a man's individual circumstances, but only 50% of vasectomy reversals result in a successful pregnancy. Research has found that men who have vasectomies before they are 30 years old are likely to regret their decision later on.

The Procedure

A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure usually carried out under local anaesthetic. This means that the patient can go home on the same day as the operation. The patient will probably be told to wash his genital area thoroughly and put on supportive underwear before arriving at the clinic. He may be asked to shave part of his scrotum in advance. Vasectomies may be carried out in a doctor's clinic, as an out-patient procedure in a hospital, or in a private clinic. The procedure is done in one of two ways: the conventional vasectomy or the non-scalpel vasectomy.

The Conventional Vasectomy

The scrotum is numbed using local anaesthetic and then two small cuts are made on each side. Via these small cuts, the surgeon accesses the tubes which carry the patient's sperm out of his testicles (these tubes are called the vas deferens). The surgeon cuts the vas deferens and removes a small section of each tube. The ‘loose' ends of the tubes are then tied or sealed using a diathermy (a high-temperature device which cauterizes small blood vessels). The cuts in the scrotum are then stitched up, usually with dissolvable stitches which melt away over the course of a few days.

The Non-Scalpel Vasectomy

The scrotum is not cut during the non-scalpel vasectomy, which reduces bleeding, makes recovery less uncomfortable for the patient, and removes the need for stitches. The scrotum is numbed using local anaesthetic and then the surgeon feels the vasdeferens through the skin of the scrotum. When the surgeon finds the tubes, he makes a tiny puncture in the skin and uses small forceps to open up the hole. Through this hole, he cuts and seals off the vas deferens.

Both the conventional and the non-scalpel vasectomy take approximately 15 to 30 minutes to perform. The non-scalpel procedure is more commonly available in private clinics than in NHS clinics.

Recovery

Most patients recover from a vasectomy within a few days. Many leave the hospital or clinic on the same day as the procedure and return to work one or two days later. Heavy lifting or strenuous exercise should be avoided for a week after the operation. The patient may experience swelling, bruising or discomfort in his genital area. This can be treated with ice packs, snug underwear which supports the scrotum, and over-the-counter pain killers.

Sex After Vasectomy

Sex after a vasectomy is usually safe as soon as it's comfortable for the patient. (This may take two to three days.) The patient needs time to clear the remaining sperm from his tubes, therefore contraceptive cover may not be provided until a few months after the procedure. An alternative method of contraception should be used in the meantime. Semen tests are usually performed two to three months after the vasectomy. Once two consecutive tests have shown that no sperm are present in the semen, it's safe to start having ‘unprotected' sex. Vasectomies are thought to be around 99% effective in protection against pregnancy. Remember, however, that the procedure offers no protection against sexually transmitted diseases.

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