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Answers to your questions about vasectomy.

Is your family big enough, or have you chosen not to have children?

If so, vasectomy could be a good birth control option.

The facts about vasectomy

To answer the big question — no, reversing a vasectomy is not a realistic option. A reverse vasectomy (or vasectomy reversal) is more complicated than the original procedure. It’s expensive. And it may not work. So, consider a vasectomy a permanent form of birth control. It’s possible to retrieve viable sperm after a vasectomy for in vitro fertilization, but that’s also expensive and not guaranteed to work, either.

A vasectomy involves cutting off the supply of sperm that reach semen by sealing the tubes that carry sperm. It’s an outpatient procedure that’s usually performed under local anesthesia, although there are other options.

The risk of problems is low, and the success rate is high. In fact, a vasectomy is nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. The failure rate is only 1 in 2,000 cases.

In short, it’s the only form of birth control you and your partner will need. No more condoms, pills or IUDs. (Unless you need to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. A vasectomy offers no protection from STDs.)

1. What about discomfort?

Because a vasectomy is a surgical procedure, men can expect some discomfort. Administering the local anesthesia requires a needle, and there’s some pain right afterward. This can usually be controlled with ice packs and ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Side effects might also include blood in the semen, bruising in the area and swelling. But for most men, these issues don’t last long.

A very small number of men — 1% to 2% — get a hematoma (blood that accumulates in the scrotum) or an infection, or have chronic pain that is usually mild, but can be bothersome. There’s also a risk of damage to the testicle, but it’s extremely rare.

For most men, a vasectomy is no worse than any other minor surgery.

2. What a vasectomy won’t do

Ignore all the jokes and myths. A vasectomy won’t:

  • Affect sexual performance
  • Damage sexual organs
  • Increase the risk of certain cancers or heart disease

The bottom line: Getting a vasectomy won’t impact a man’s sex drive, sex life or masculinity. It’s just a low-risk, effective, permanent means of birth control.

3. How the procedure works

A vasectomy can be performed in a doctor’s office or surgical center and usually takes about a half hour. The doctor will:

  • Numb the area with a local anesthetic
  • Make a small incision or puncture in the upper part of the scrotum
  • Withdraw part of the tube that carries semen, called the vas deferens
  • Cut and seal the vas deferens using heat, surgical clips or another method
  • Close the incision with stitches or surgical glue

Care after a vasectomy involves rest, supporting the scrotum with a bandage or tight-fitting underwear and applying ice packs as needed.

Most men resume normal activities after about 48 hours. It’s best to avoid sex for at least a week, both because it can cause pain and some sperm might be present for a period after the surgery. Your doctor will give you detailed instructions.

4. Considering a vasectomy?

If you (or your partner) are serious about vasectomy, the first step is to discuss your lifestyle and plans. Are you certain that having children, or more kids, isn’t in your future? Make sure the answer is “yes” before moving forward. Don’t consider reversing a vasectomy a real option.

If you’re certain, talk to your primary care doctor or schedule an appointment with a urologist.

With just a simple procedure, you could all but eliminate worries about pregnancy and free yourself from birth control methods that require more thought and maintenance.

Next steps:

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