Having a vasectomy

MEN! Don’t want to get anyone pregnant ever again? Can I interest you in modifying the hormonal balance of your body? You might put on a bit of weight, possibly have some blood pressure issues, reduce your risk of some cancers (yay!), but maybe raise the risk of some other cancers (boo!). You have to remember to take a pill every day.

Don’t fancy taking a pill? How about we stick a little bit of plastic in you, that will dribble out chemicals for a few months, achieving the same effect. You’ll have to keep going back to have a new one put in, though.

No? Well, how about we jam this small device into your urethra, that should do the trick!

We men have it easier in almost every walk of life, and our contraceptive choices are no exception. I’d like to discuss the reasons I had a vasectomy, and to describe the experience. Men of a squeamish nature should absolutely continue reading, you’re very much the target audience.

My circumstances

I’m married, to Kate. We had our first daughter in 2010. Our son was stillborn in 2012. Our second daughter was born in 2014. That third pregnancy was, as you’d expect, a period of alternating terror and hope. We were 36 when she was born.

Kate had been taking the contraceptive pill for 12 years before we started, then again between our attempts to conceive. Each time, it took a long time. We decided we were done with having children.

Making the decision was liberating – we could again plan for the future without the fog of uncertainty around periods of leave, childcare and so on.

Old and tired from the efforts of parenting we were, but not quite ready to give up on sex. So what could we do?

Options

Chance it

No.

Kate goes back on the pill

The pill is designed as a temporary method of birth control, with the advantage that you can stop taking it when you’re ready to start your family. It’s not a permanent solution.

Kate has a contraceptive implant

This just struck us as a slightly more convenient but intrusive pill.

Kate has a coil

Neither of us liked this idea.

Kate has tube ligation surgery

This option had some potential.

Note that so far all of these options involve things being done to Kate. What are the options for the man?

Condoms

What, for ever? Every time? That seemed unlikely to succeed, not to mention the inconvenience and expense.

Vasectomy

This option also had some potential. I strongly felt that it was my “turn” to take responsibility for contraception, and our research indicated that this was a much less serious and invasive procedure than the tube ligation.

Decisions

We both set out with an expectation that we’d go for a vasectomy, and our research just confirmed that. This decision is a commitment to my wife and family, and anyway, I really prefer children to babies.

I think for any man who has finished having children, it’s almost the only choice that makes sense. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who’s never had children and thinks they don’t want to – that was me, about 10 years ago, convinced I never wanted kids.

What happens

Note: I can only write about my own experience. Your healthcare provider may differ!

Booking appointment

This is a visit to my GP (family doctor). We discussed my situation and then I had to have a quick examination to make sure there was nothing “unusual” about my testicles. Thankfully everything was normal. I was then referred to the vasectomy clinic and given an appointment.

Number of strangers who’ve handled my privates: 1

The big day

The vasectomy clinic was run by another GP, who performs the service “as a hobby” 😱. It turns out there are several different methods of vasectomy. He was very disparaging about the “American” method: two large incisions, then either cutting and tying, or (and he was really not keen on this) a plastic clip across each tube, like you’d use to reseal a bag of crisps. “You don’t do this if you think you might change your mind!”, he thundered.

The correct way to do it, it turns out, involves making a tiny nick, just a few millimetres long, at the top of the scrotum, assuming it hasn’t disappeared in terror at this point. Then, the doctor can furtle around until one of the tubes appears at the nick. They then get a little loop of it poking out, and use what I can only describe as a soldering iron to cut and cauterise the tube at the same time. Pop that back in, repeat for the other, and you’re done. There are no stitches, because the cut is so small. Instead you have to wear “supportive” underpants (i.e. briefs, not boxers) with some surgical wadding pushed up against the cut for a couple of days.

How much did it hurt? Less than the gum poking thing they do at the dentist. Before the start they give a local anaesthetic, you just feel a small prick (rimshot). The whole thing (from arriving to driving home) took less than an hour.

Number of strangers who’ve handled my privates: 2 (well, there was also a nurse but I don’t think she got her hands dirty, as it were)

Recovery

You have to walk a bit funny and sit down carefully for a few days, but quite a lot of that is probably psychological. Sleeping can be uncomfortable for a while because you might not be able to lie in your favourite position. I was cycling to work at the time and had to go on the bus for the recommended couple of weeks.

Tests

A certain amount of time and a certain number of ejaculations (the doctor said, darling!) later, you have to provide a semen sample, then a few weeks later, another one. You’re given labels and containers and the samples can be “collected” in the comfort of your own home and dropped off in a little postbox at the doctors, so you don’t have to hand a doctor’s receptionist a fresh pot of man juice and a used magazine or anything like that.

A week or so after the second sample and you get the “all clear”, and you’re done.

FAQs

Doesn’t it make you less of a man? Are you a eunuch? Does your voice go higher?

Oh, bugger off.

Is it… you know… different?

Not as far as I can tell. The only missing ingredient is sperm, which only comprises a tiny portion of an ejaculation.

Would you recommend it?

Absolutely.

What if you change your mind?

I won’t. Having babies is a phase of my life that I treasure, but have absolutely no wish to repeat. I’m nearly 40, for god’s sake.

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