If you or your partner is considering a vasectomy, know that it’s a common and safe minimally invasive procedure, with an effectiveness rate of 99%. Except for abstinence, it’s the most effective form of birth control. A vasectomy may be preferable to the equivalent procedure for women, tubal ligation. While both techniques serve as permanent forms of birth control, couples should thoroughly discuss their respective benefits and drawbacks, including the participation of all healthcare providers, before deciding to undergo surgery.
|Did You Know…|
Vasectomy and tubal ligation are both effective at preventing pregnancies. However, they won’t protect against sexually transmitted infections, so protection, like condoms, is needed. With a vasectomy, after about 12 weeks, or 20-30 ejaculations, you’ll have a follow-up urologist appointment to screen your semen for sperm. A vasectomy is considered successful once your semen is free of any sperm.
The Vasectomy Process
With a traditional vasectomy, a doctor, typically a urologist, injects a local anesthetic into the scrotal area, using a needle. They make 1-2 small incisions into the scrotum and cut the vas deferens, which is a coiled tube that transports sperm from the testes to the penis. It’s then sealed, either surgically or by burning the ends, and the incisions are closed and stitched up. Or, you could undergo a minimally invasive technique, such as a no-needle, no-scalpel vasectomy. This type of vasectomy eliminates the need for anesthesia (i.e., no needle) and incisions (i.e., no scalpel) and instead uses a hypospray to instantly numb the scrotal area and tiny puncture holes to gently reach the vas deferens.
Vasectomy Benefits and Drawbacks
Research shows that more than 500,000 American men undergo vasectomy annually. Among vasectomy benefits are:
- It has a long-term success rate of 99% in pregnancy prevention.
- Vasectomies can often be safely and effectively reversed.
- Vasectomies cost half as much as tubal ligation and are covered by most insurance plans. They’re also less expensive than other forms of women’s long-term birth control medication.
- Vasectomies have little, if any pain or discomfort.
- Vasectomies have no impact on male libido or testosterone levels, and sexual satisfaction may improve.
- Erectile dysfunction won’t develop, and ejaculation is not affected.
- Vasectomies haven’t been found to increase disease risks, like cancer.
- Vasectomies have a short, easy recovery period.
While minimally invasive, a vasectomy is still a surgical procedure, which inherently comes with some risks and side effects. The primary drawback of a vasectomy procedure is that there is a small risk of experiencing bleeding, irritation, pain, infection, scrotal hemorrhaging, bruising, epididymitis, and inflammation. However, discussing these risks ahead of time with your surgeon can help reduce their likelihood.
A tubal ligation, also known as “having your tubes tied,” is performed to prevent a woman’s eggs from entering the fallopian tubes and being fertilized by sperm. With this outpatient procedure, a surgeon cuts, ties, blocks, or occasionally, uses an electrical current (electrocoagulation), to seal a woman’s fallopian tubes. The primary benefit of tubal ligation is that it doesn’t affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.
While considered to be generally safe, tubal ligations do come with some significant risks, such as:
- You may have damage to the bowel, bladder, or major blood vessels, anesthesia reactions, pelvic or abdominal pain, and improper wound healing or infection.
- Complications may include irregular vaginal bleeding, feeling faint, fever, and swelling or rash.
- While rare, failure of tubal ligation can result in ectopic pregnancy, in which the embryo implants outside of the womb, like the fallopian tubes. Typically, it’s a life-threatening situation, requiring immediate medical attention.
Considerations For Vasectomy and Tubal Ligation
Whichever procedure is selected, couples should make this decision together, discussing any motivations, the procedure itself, and its implications. A vasectomy, in particular, is a family-oriented decision for a man and his female partner, as it can impact both of their lives. With a vasectomy, there’s also the social stigma associated, even for men with female partners who had tubal ligation. Men may find it helpful to speak with their urologist about these concerns.
Vasectomy or Tubal Ligation: Make the Decision Carefully
For couples looking for permanent birth control, vasectomy and tubal ligation each have benefits and drawbacks, requiring open, honest discussions. If you opt for vasectomy or have questions about either procedure, please contact The San Diego Vasectomy Center for an appointment.