First comes love,
Then comes marriage,
Then comes a baby in a baby carriage…
And then comes a vasectomy.
In this day and age with family planning at its peak for a majority of couples, not only are the births of children planned and plotted like a business proposal, but male vasectomies seem to be the next logical step in the process.
While birth control and family planning are responsible decisions that many couples make together based on their wants, financial situation and work/life balance this decision is not one to be taken lightly. Just like any life-altering medical procedure, the decision to undergo a vasectomy needs to be one entered into with adequate research, information, awareness and understanding of ALL the individual or couple’s options.
What is a Vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a form of permanent male contraception which involves surgically cutting, blocking or tying off a man’s vas deferens. The vas deferens are the tubes that carry the sperm from a man’s testicles to his penis. At this time, there are both scalpel and non-scalpel options. By blocking or even cutting a piece out of the vas deferens, the sperm is no longer able to be transported into a man’s semen.
Performed as an outpatient procedure, a vasectomy is considered a low-risk, rather simple, permanent form of birth control. After a vasectomy, men will still ejaculate, but there will no longer be sperm present in his semen. That said, there are still precautions that must be taken post-vasectomy for a certain period of time to ensure pregnancy does not occur because it can take up to 3 months to get a zero-sperm count.
The Pros and Cons of a Vasectomy
While women should not be fully responsible for all family planning precautions, there are more, less permanent options available for women than men. That said, the idea of a vasectomy which is a seemingly harmless procedure then allowing unplanned, unprotected sex is tempting for many couples, especially parents who need one less thing to worry about.
The benefits of a vasectomy include high success rates, minimal recovery time, permanency, possibly a more active (or at least more spontaneous) sex life, and an effectiveness rating of over 99%. Vasectomies are sometimes reversible as well, although this is not guaranteed and should not be considered as a viable fertility option because success rates of vasectomy reversals are low.
Known vasectomy complications include:
- Hematomas – a blood clot in the scrotum that may require surgical removal.
- Sperm Granulomas – lumps that occur when sperm leak out of the vas deferens and accumulate in the surrounding tissue requiring surgical removal.
- Infection at the incision site.
- Testicular Pain, or Chronic Testicular Pain.
For the most part, the mainstream medical community refuses to acknowledge any long-term consequences stemming from male vasectomies, however there are some possible complications that should be considered.
- Post Vasectomy Pain Syndrome or Congestive Epididymitis – chronic and possibly debilitating genital pain affecting as may as 1 in every 3 vasectomized men, that may develop immediately or several years after vasectomy. Includes persistent pain in the genitals or groin, pain at erection or engaging in sexual intercourse, pain upon ejaculation, and loss of erectile function.
- Autoimmune Response – 75% or more men will begin to produce anti-sperm antibodies after a vasectomy.
- Prostate Cancer
- Testicular Cancer
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Lowered Testosterone
With the rise in the use of erectile dysfunction drugs amongst middle-aged men becoming more and more prevalent, along with weight gain and obesity found among this population, one should consider whether this seemingly simple procedure could be the cause.
Further, while not all men will experience decreased testosterone upon vasectomy, also associated with low libido and weight gain, others may, so awareness of this potentially devastating side effect is important.
Testosterone is a hormone produced mainly in a man’s testicles. Testosterone helps maintain bone density, fat distribution, muscle mass, facial and body hair, red blood cell production, sex drive, and sperm production. Lowered testosterone can lead to obvious physical complications, but also significant emotional health problems in men as they become unhappy with their appearance and their ability to perform sexually with their partner.
Unfortunately, the statistics and research on these complications are quite limited because frequently the symptoms take months or even years to manifest making the correlation difficult due to other factors arising in the meantime. Also, doctors consider these risks low in opposition to the potentially high benefits associated with family planning and population control.
The bottom line is family planning needs to be just that…discussed amongst the family (meaning the sexual partners) and planned. Although a vasectomy may be a seemingly simple outpatient surgical procedure, there are still significant side effects that need to be considered in order for you and your partner to make an informed medical decision. The choice is not something to be taken lightly even though your family may be complete because there are potential lifetime consequences. Just remember, our medical community has the best of intentions when it comes to new and innovative ways to improve our quality of life, however, human beings were created the way we are for a reason, thus each and every life-altering medical decision is important.
Sources: Mens Hormonal Health, Population Research Institute, Mayo Clinic