5 Vasectomy Myths, Busted

If you’re done having kids (or don’t want to start), this procedure is an easy, foolproof and relatively painless solution to birth control.

Whether or not you’re in a long-term committed relationship, birth control takes effort. One solution that requires no further upkeep or medical care is a vasectomy. It’s one of the most effective birth control methods, with a 0.15 percent failure rate (compared to up to 0.4 percent for hormonal IUDs, 7 percent for birth control pills and 13 percent for condoms), according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Vasectomy may be covered by your insurance, but even if it’s not, the procedure costs a couple thousand dollars, which is definitely cheaper than a college fund. If the notion of retiring the swim team for good still has you squirming, though, let’s debunk some commonly held myths about vasectomies.

Myth 1: It’s really painful

Understandably, the idea of a doctor performing a procedure on such a sensitive area may make men concerned. Surprisingly, though, vasectomies are less painful than you might imagine.

“Most men who undergo a vasectomy say the pain is slight, with approximately 95 percent reporting only mild or minimal pain,” says Mary Samplaski, MD, a urologist at Keck Medicine of USC who performs vasectomies, and an assistant professor of clinical urology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

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Plenty of numbing medication is administered before starting the procedure. Plus, with a no-scalpel technique, only a small puncture is made to get to the vas deferens (the two tubes that transmit sperm), which are blocked during the procedure. Using this technique, most men have a fast and simple recovery. Long-term pain is uncommon.

Myth 2: The effects are immediate

Vasectomies work really well, but they take a little while to be fully effective. Sperm can remain in the tube beyond where the cut is made, so they can still get out if you have unprotected sex too soon.

“The first 10 ejaculations after a vasectomy have near normal numbers of sperm, so it’s important that you use backup birth control,” Dr. Samplaski says.

Your doctor will test your sperm, and when no sperm are present, that will be the go-ahead to have sex without the concern of pregnancy.

Myth 3: It can affect sexual function

With a vasectomy, the tubes carrying the sperm are the only thing that is affected; everything else remains in working order. Sperm are still produced by the testicles, but because they reach a “roadblock,” they are re-absorbed by the body instead. The amount of fluid produced and released also isn’t affected.

“Sperm only accounts for 2 percent to 5 percent of the volume of a man’s ejaculate,” Dr. Samplaski says. “Most ejaculate fluid comes from the prostate.”

The force of the ejaculation, which is produced by pelvic muscles, isn’t affected, either.

When it comes to sexual desire, research has shown that vasectomies don’t impact a man’s interest in sex, his ability to get or keep an erection or the quality of his orgasms. The most current research actually shows that having a vasectomy improves relationship satisfaction, which may even make sex better, as couples no longer have to worry about unwanted pregnancy or how to prevent it.

Myth 4: It can be easily reversed and things go back to normal

It’s true that a vasectomy can be reversed, but it’s not intended to be. The reversal procedure costs about $8,500, according to Dr. Samplaski, and it may leave scarring that can result in lower sperm counts. Men should think long and hard about whether or not they want more children before having a vasectomy. If they do decide they want children afterward, however, getting sperm out from the testicle is possible.

“If men do decide that they want more children, getting sperm out is possible because the testicle, the ‘sperm factory,’ is still intact and making sperm,” Dr. Samplaski says.

Myth 5: It can increase the risk of prostate cancer

A recent large study showed that vasectomies don’t increase the risk of prostate cancer. This research eclipses older studies that suggested an association with cancer. However, the procedure doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases, so men should continue to use additional means of protection if needed.

by Tina Donvito

If you are interested in having a vasectomy, make an appointment with one of the urologists at the USC Institute of Urology. If you are in the Los Angeles area, schedule an appointment online or call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273).