I went back and forth on even writing this blog post. Making the decision to end your ability to have children is an incredibly personal one–in your relationship, physically, and mentally. However, after we made that decision, I was astonished by the lack of available information out there from people who had gone through the same thing. If you google “vasectomy”, you’re left with Mayo Clinic, WebMD, and urology websites describing the procedure, but very, very few testimonials by people who have gone through it, and if you are like me, that causes some anxiety. So yes, much of this is probably too much information, but I hope it’s helpful to someone either considering the procedure now, or expecting to consider it in the future.
I’m a medical procedure wimp, I want to know what to expect, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I don’t want it sugarcoated, I want to know what it was like to have the procedure performed from someone who experienced it.
28 probably seems young to make such a permanent decision in your life. But the plan for us was essentially two children by age 30, and that’s what we got. We made the decision pretty early in this pregnancy that this would be our last. Several factors played into this decision. First, pregnancy is not always a fun experience for my wife, and this one, especially early on, was pretty rough. Second, we had a boy and a girl, which, for us, was our “dream family” and we were excited to get one of each. Third, and this can’t be understated, but children are an economical and emotional commitment. I think sometimes the “expense” of children is overstated, but daycare isn’t, and having a kid already starting school, we really don’t want to be dealing with a baby when our oldest in middle school. We wanted to be done with that part of our lives and go forward with raising two kids into adulthood.
For obvious reasons, we wanted to wait until she was born before taking the steps to become permanently finished. Well that time had come and went, and 5 days later, I was sitting in my urologist’s office discussing permanent sterilization. It is my intention here to give you a solid overview of what went down. Firstly, we chose a vasectomy because it’s much less invasive than other forms of permanent sterilization, such as tubal ligations. It’s an outpatient procedure, recovery is only 2-6 days, and has minimal risks. Vasectomy is also a much more successful form of permanent birth control. It’s 99.9% effective in the first year, and long-term rates have failures marked at about 1 in 50-60,000. Tubal ligations, while effective, fail at a rate about 5 times more often than a vasectomy, and long-term rates actually decline after the first year.
My consultation was only about 10 minutes. The urologist did confirm with me that I had children already and that my wife was on board with it (I guess there have been a few “incidents” in the past). I explained to him that she drove me to the appointment. Vasectomies should be considered a permanent method of birth control, he said, and that reversals are expensive, rough, and not a guarantee. Anyone considering one should have discussed it with their significant other and also assume it will not be reversed. I actually expected more pushback about my age, but he seemed to address me just as he would a man in his 40s or 50s. After we determined I wanted to go ahead with the procedure, we scheduled it about 10 days later.
I mentioned earlier that I am a medical procedure wimp. So while I was confident about the procedure, I was still very anxious about it. I reported to the outpatient surgery center at 7:30 AM to complete some paperwork and was taken back around 8:15 for pre-op vitals. After sweating it out for about a half-hour, I was taken back to the “operating room”, which was really just a standard room with some extra lights. I did my best to keep my eyes off the sterile blue tray that contained all the instruments needed for the procedure. I knew basically what to expect, but still didn’t really want to see what was going to be headed towards my nether-regions.
My urologist explained the first thing would be a local numbing agent. Yes, it is a needle. This was probably the “worst” part of the entire procedure. Since the procedure happens in two places, he did one side first, which included probably 2-3 separate injections. They did feel like very small pinches. But in my experience, a single flu shot in the bicep hurts more. It was about 5 seconds, if that, of discomfort–but it did the job. A small incision was made (there are technically no-needle, no-scalpel ones as well, but this was not one). I didn’t feel the incision at all, thankfully. There was a brief tugging sensation. It wasn’t necessarily painful, but it felt similar to getting hit there. However, whereas when that happens “in the wild” the sensation lasts for about 90 seconds, this lasted for maybe 2 seconds. At that point, the vas deferens is extracted, a small section is cut out, and then the rest is cauterized. Then maybe 2-3 sutures are placed to close the incision. This was absolutely pain-free.
After one side is done, the same process occurs on the other side. Since you’re already numb from the first series of injections, this is even less painful than the first time. A few pinches, a brief tugging sensation again, and then you’re done. In all, the procedure took about 15 minutes, though it only felt like 5. I walked out of the office on my own. On the overall pain meter, you’re talking about maybe 10 seconds total of discomfort over those entire 15 minutes. On the “pain scale”, this was about a 2, and a bad papercut is a 3. Stubbing your toe is honestly more painful.
Again, while considered a permanent procedure, it’s not immediately “effective”. Generally 6-12 weeks is necessary for the procedure to take effect, and an analysis is performed to ensure that you are, in fact, sterile. Most vasectomy failures occur because the patient didn’t wait long enough and spontaneous “reconnection” of the vas deferens is very rare.
Post-operation, the urologist was adamant taking it easy for a full 48 hours. No exercise, no lifting, minimal walking. All in all, with rest, ice, and Tylenol, you’re pretty much back to normal in 2 days, and can resume full activity in 7 days. There’s some soreness, but I really thought it would be worse. But I’m also taking maximum care, and I think if you do that, you shouldn’t really have any adverse post-op experiences.
So we’re done. And that’s it. I’ve had a very surgeries in my life. Leg surgery that was performed under general anesthesia, wisdom tooth extraction under twilight anesthesia, and this procedure. This was undoubtedly the easiest and least painful process. Leg surgery, while under a general anesthesia, felt horrible the week following. Wisdom tooth extraction was not painful, but I could still “feel” it happening, and again, the recovery was miserable. In no uncertain terms would I call this “fun”, but I would imagine every person has experienced something more painful, and in the end, it’s certainly less than 9 months of pregnancy and labor.
But we certainly didn’t take this decision lightly. We discussed the future and were both 100% positive that we did not want any more children. No reversals, no going back, this is a one and done. And if anyone is considering this, I would encourage you and your significant other reach the same level of agreement. But that’s it. It was not bad at all, and if fear of the procedure is the only thing holding you back, don’t let it.