Let's Talk About Vasectomies
I got a vasectomy a few months ago. If you follow me on social media this is old news as I documented the experience (not the actual procedure, just the before and after stuff). This experience revealed something to me: this is a topic that is not discussed enough. For reasons I will get into shortly, vasectomies are an important part of men's health and essential to conversations about sexual and reproductive health. So why aren't we talking more about them? Can we have a conversation about vasectomies?
Now that I'm a few months out, I feel like it's a good time to share some of my thoughts on the subject. It's still fresh in my mind, but I'm removed enough to have had some time to reflect. So here you go, six things I learned from recently having a vasectomy.
1. We are uncomfortable talking about vasectomies. It's one of those things that is whispered about, but not a part of the public discourse when it comes to men's health. I think it's a shame and that it actually is fueled by shame and unhealthy masculinity. There is an aspect of our culture's view of masculinity that is tied to the ability and/or choice to reproduce. This is evident with jokes about "being neutered" or "losing your manhood. All phrases I heard during my experience (and maybe even participated in to a degree). Let's put an end to that, shall we?
2. Yes it's my body, but the decision to get a vasectomy was collaborative. We all might find ourselves in different scenarios when deciding on a vasectomy (single, partnered, married, etc). We approach this decision differently based on those situations, but because this is not a *reversible procedure, I would advise taking some time to think it though, even talking with people you trust. I'm married and so it was important to make this decision in partnership with Sam. It was a physical, emotional, and financial decision that would impact our future. Were we really sure we didn't want any more kids? What if something happened? As hard as it was to talk through some of those scenarios, it was important to be real about life and what it might hold. There were definetley moments I was unsure. It was strange to voluntarily opt out of something I'd always had a reverence for (having children) and giving it up sounds strange even as I type it - but those feelings were there nonetheless. In the end, I decided that at thirty-six years old I was done with having more kids. We are blessed with two beautiful, healthy children and I could not ask for more.
3. Vasectomies don't work right away. A few weeks after my procedure, a friend tagged me in the comments of Facebook video where a couple got pregnant a few weeks after the husband had a vasectomy. They were shocked and made statements like "no one told us" and "why didn't the doctor go over this" - all of which I have a hard time believing. A five-minute internet search on vasectomies will tell you that it can take a few months to flush out all the remaining sperm in your system. For example, I got my vasectomy on December 29th and I'm still not in the clear. In my case, the doctor and staff were very thorough about the procedure, recovery process, and when I could be officially "cleared."
4. There two different kinds of vasectomy procedures. The first is an "incision vasectomy." The doctor makes one or two small cuts in the skin of your scrotum. Through these cuts, the tubes that carry sperm (vas deferens) are blocked off. Sometimes, a tiny part of each tube is removed. The tubes may be tied, blocked with surgical clips, or closed with cauterizing (basically burning the ends). The whole thing takes about 20 minutes, and then the cut is stitched up. The other is "no-scalpel vasectomy." The doctor makes one tiny puncture (hole) to reach both vas deferens tubes — the skin of your scrotum isn’t cut with a scalpel. Your tubes are then tied off, cauterized, or blocked. The small puncture heals quickly. You won’t need stitches, and there’s no scarring.
5. What was a little awkward for me is something women go through all the time. With the exception of the occasional "turn your head and cough" scenario, most men under a certain age aren't used to having doctors or nurses "down south." I think it was my wife who said "welcome to the club" when I shared about the awkwardness of the situations I found myself in. So here's to solidarity and having a deeper understanding about the lives of others. Women, I salute you.
6. A few tips on recovery. Recovery was fairly smooth for me. It's mostly a feeling of being tender for week or so. I didn't take any pain meds with the exception of a few Motrin here and there. I know others who have experienced swelling and even infection, but this is exception and not the norm. Doctors recommend getting compression shorts for support like these ones I purchased. I found them to be offer good support but often got tight around the waist and in the later days, I switched to a jock strap. The point is, it's mostly uncomfortable, not painful. Lastly, remember that if you happen to be in a situation where you live with someone who has had a baby, keep your discomfort in perspective. My wife delivered two children without a single bit of medication and, in comparison, I am a weakling of a human being. Take advantage of a few days on the couch with Netlix, but remember that she carried a child for 9+ months.
If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. I'm hoping this opens up the door for more conversation on the subject. I think it's important to break through some of the unhealthy views of men's role in reproductive health so we can have more conversations about it. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts!
*In rare cases after a vasectomy, it is possible for sperm to find its way across the void between the two blocked ends of the vas deferens. ... However, the failure rate of vasectomy is very low. Also I am not a medical expert so don't take anything I say as medical fact, etc.