Genital surgery is not on most men’s bucket lists, but many will have it on their to-do list at some point. And while it’s all too easy to obsess over the negatives of this procedure, there are positives too. “Vasectomy is the least invasive permanent and effective form of birth control,” said Dr. Ryan Berglund, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “For couples that desire no further children, it can be a cost-effective way of preventing this from occurring.”
Here’s what we (and a couple urologists) have to say about all that’s good and great about getting snipped:
1. Vasectomies are incredibly effective. Men have a less than 1 percent chance of getting a partner pregnant after this procedure. Yes, that’s more effective than rubbers or birth control pills.
2. The risks are low. All surgeries carry risks, but vasectomies are usually uncomplicated. There is about a 2 to 3 percent chance of infection, bleeding, or pain. Significant pain may occur in up to 10 percent of men, often resulting from the accumulation of sperm upstream of the vasectomy.
3. It shouldn’t affect sexual functioning. Vasectomies involve cutting the tube that transports sperm, there is no change in hormones, and the penis is not part of the procedure. For most men, sexual functioning is no different post-vasectomy. “Sexual function rarely changes after the procedure, except in the case of a patient developing a chronic pain condition,” said Berglund. There may be a 10 percent drop in the volume of fluid that comes out during ejaculation, but Dr. Michael Eisenberg, a urologist at Stanford Health Care, says men and their partners are unlikely to notice a difference.
4. You still make sperm. Vasectomies don’t halt sperm production, they keep your swimmers from coming out and the sperm are eventually reabsorbed into the body. Men who’ve been snipped may be inspired to contemplate the strange reality of absorbing their unused sex cells (something that the female body does too).
5. It’s quick. Picturing a lengthy operation? Berglund said that the whole procedure takes about 10 minutes. Eisenberg added five more minutes for setup and cleanup. The whole appointment takes about an hour.
6. And it’s usually done in the doctor’s office. This surgery is so simple that it’s often done right in your doctor’s office. (On rare occasion, more complicated cases may warrant use of an operating room.)
7. The surgery is simple. Vasectomies are wonderfully straightforward. The scrotum is opened and the two vas deferens (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles) are cut and stitched shut. That’s it.
8. You can understand it. Unlike a lot of medical information, the low-down on vasectomies is easy to access and clear to understand. Here is a simple, animated explanation of the surgery from St. Pete Urology.
9. It only requires local anesthetic. Being put under can be one of the most dangerous parts of having surgery. Most vasectomies only require local anesthetic, like lidocaine. “It is often done under local anesthesia so that one feels a needle initially and then it just feels like an exam,” said Eisenberg.
10. There are no-scalpel vasectomies. This kind of vasectomy uses a special tool to open the scrotum, and the incision is so small that it’s not even stitched closed afterward.
11. It’s a rare chance to wear a jock strap. After surgery, men are advised to wear supportive underwear, which may include a jock strap. If you never got the chance before, this could finally be a reason to give this contraption a whirl.
12. It’s a unique greeting card opportunity. As with everything, there are cards for vasectomies, and they’re pretty great.
13. Recovery is fast. Seven to 10 days is the standard time for full recovery. “While I’ve had men ride horses the next day, I’d prefer that they lay low,” says Eisenberg. He recommends low activity and liberal use of an ice pack for two days and avoiding sexual activity for a week (Sorry).
14. It’s the ultimate excuse to sit on the couch in sweats. You'll have to remember your ice pack, but if there was ever a time to let you sit on the couch in your pajamas, eating whatever you want, and play Call of Duty, this is it.
15. Sperm clearance = sex as homework. Men are supposed to get a sperm count post-vasectomy to check that it worked. Before then, they are told to have about 20–25 ejaculations to clear any sperm left in their tubes. Time to set up a sex tally! Not: Even when this number is surpassed, men should still get tested — achievement of azoospermia (no sperm in ejaculate) can take up to a year.
16. It costs less than kids. According to the United State Department of Agriculture, a child costs about $16,000 a year. Vasectomies cost about $1,000 to $2,000 and insurance may cover some of that cost.
17. Your partner will be grateful. Both Eisenberg and Berglund said that partners (who know about the vasectomy) often appreciate the help with birth control. Because there are so many birth control options for women, contraceptive decisions, and actions tend to fall on women in a relationship. Since the balance of responsibility will feel restored, perhaps you can coax her into that brewery trip.
18. It simplifies sex. So long as you have a committed partner, a successful vasectomy allows for an incredible level of sexual freedom. No more wondering whether she took her pill or if the condom broke. No more late-night runs for pregnancy tests because she feels a little off. This is the safest way to put concerns about an “oops” baby to rest.
19. You can use it as relationship capital. Do I really have to go to your boss’s Christmas party? Remember that time I got surgery on my balls…
20. It’s reversible (technically). Vasectomies should be considered permanent. They are not temporary birth control. Reversing a vasectomy is costly and may not be successful (Eisenberg says about 90 percent are successful when done by urologists with special training in microsurgery). Insurance rarely covers a vasectomy reversal, so while it may comfort a man to know vasectomy reversals exist, it should not be a factor in deciding whether he will get one. If you want a vasectomy but may still want kids, consider freezing sperm before the surgery.
21. You’re kind of saving the world: There are too many people in the world. We are over-crowded, running out of water, and creating tons of waste. A man’s decision to have a vasectomy can prevent unplanned pregnancies and, on an individual level, that’s a major contribution to cutting down on the toll humankind is taking on the earth.