Aside from condoms, a vasectomy is pretty much the only other method of male birth control available. A vasectomy is a simple procedure that can be done in a doctor's office and is a permanent way of preventing pregnancy.
Making the Cut
A vasectomy involves severing the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm into a man's ejaculate, thereby making him infertile. The procedure, which takes less than 30 minutes, is usually done in a doctor's office and local anesthetic is given to help make the procedure less painful.
After the operation, a man is likely to feel some pain or discomfort for several days. Additionally, he may notice some scrotal discoloring, swelling and possibly bruising but this should disappear after a few days.
A vasectomy is seen as a permanent form of birth control. It is generally recommended for men that are done having children or are absolutely certain that they do not want to have children. Although it is possible for some men to have a vasectomy reversal, it may not be enough to help produce a pregnancy. While sperm may be present in a man's ejaculate after a reversal, only about half of these men are actually able to successfully conceive after a vasectomy reversal.
If you are not absolutely sure that you do not want children, would like to have biological children in the future, are being pressured to have a vasectomy, or have not taken into account life changes, such as remarriage and the death of a child, having a vasectomy may not be the best choice for you right now.
Although the procedure is fairly straightforward and complications do not happen often, a vasectomy is not a completely risk free operation. Aside from bruising and swelling, the most common complication is an infection, although this does not happen often and can usually be treated with antibiotics. In very rare cases, the cut ends of the vas deferens grow back together. If this complication were to arise, it would usually present itself within the first four months after the procedure.
There has also been a link made between having a vasectomy and an increased risk of prostate cancer. However, this link has yet to be proven and the latest studies show that a vasectomy has little effect, if any, on a man's chances of developing prostate cancer.
Once the operation has been done, it can take several months before a man is actually sterile. Sperm that was in the vas deferens before the procedure may still be present in a man's ejaculate anywhere from 15 to 20 ejaculates later. A man will be required to go in for periodic checks during the months following his vasectomy to evaluate the level of sperm in his ejaculate. Until he has been deemed completely clear, it will be necessary to use another form of birth control, like the sponge, when you have sex.
If all goes well, a vasectomy carries a failure rate of about 0.1%. However, the greatest numbers of unplanned pregnancies occur between the time of the procedure and before a man's ejaculate has been shown to be completely free from sperm. Pregnancy may also occur after a vasectomy if the doctor did not do the operation properly.
For more information about vasectomies, chat with others in our birth control forum.
To learn more about vasectomies, visit Contraception Information Resource.