6 Things Every Woman Needs To Know About Vasectomies
Let's face it—dealing with birth control can be a huge pain in the you-know-what. Who has time to remember to pop a pill every day or stop the foreplay long enough to grab a condom? And even longer term methods of contraception, like the IUD, can have pesky side effects like bloating and breakthrough bleeding. If you're not happy with your current method—and are definitely done having children—you might be wondering if there's a better way. There is.
When many couples decide on permanent birth control, they often opt for female sterilization (aka tubal ligation) over vasectomy for the man: Tubal ligation is performed three times more often. That's unfortunate, considering that female sterilization carries more risks, requires a longer recovery period, and is more expensive.
Before you start lecturing your guy about the relative merits of getting snipped, it pays to have your facts in order. Here's what you (and he) should know about this safe and effective procedure.
Plenty of men have signed up for it.
Although vasectomy is far less common than female sterilization, it's hardly a rare choice: One in five guys over age 35 has had a vasectomy. (Here's what the future of birth control might look like.)
It's relatively no muss, no fuss.
A typical vasectomy usually takes 10 to 15 minutes and is done with just a local anesthetic, says Joseph Alukal, MD, director of male reproductive health at NYU Langone Medical Center. During the procedure, the doctor makes a small cut or puncture into the scrotum, pulls out the vas deferens—the tube that carries semen from the testicle—cuts it, then seals it shut before closing up the incision area.
Your guy may have some soreness and swelling down there, but it's usually resolved by applying an ice pack or even frozen peas to the scrotum and taking OTC pain meds. He'll be back to work within 24 hours and can resume regular physical activity within a week. Tubal ligation, on the other hand, often requires general anesthesia (so you're completely out), is much more invasive, has a longer recovery time, and carries more significant risks like the chance of damage to your bowel or bladder.
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It works really well—but you have to follow doctor's orders.
Vasectomies are successful in over 99% of men, but you'll need to use a backup method of birth control for about 3 months after the procedure or risk pregnancy. "A man needs to have ejaculated at least 20 times after the vasectomy to make sure there are no sperm left in the ducts," explains Alukal. Most doctors have patients come back 8 to 12 weeks after the procedure to check sperm count. "When we do see pregnancies, it's usually because a man had unprotected sex during the first month after the procedure," says Alukal.
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It can often be reversed.
About 10% of men opt to reverse their vasectomies, a procedure that has an 80 to 90% success rate, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. "The most common reason men decide to have it done is remarriage, the loss of a child, or, in very rare cases, because they have residual testicular pain," says Na Bar-Chama, MD, director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in NYC. Reversal involves sewing the severed ends of the vas deferens back together and has the same recovery time as a vasectomy. If the procedure's not successful—or your man doesn't want to go back under the knife—in-vitro fertilization is still an option, since a doctor can simply retrieve sperm from the testicles.
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It doesn't affect a man's virility.
Contrary to many men's fears, getting snipped doesn't affect testosterone levels at all. "There's no change to sexual desire or semen output; they just aren't releasing sperm," explains Philip Werthman, MD, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Reversal in Los Angeles. In fact, a 2015 Stanford study found that women whose partners had vasectomies were 46% more likely to have sex at least once a week compared to women whose men hadn't undergone the procedure. If a couple has a no-brainer method of birth control, they may be more likely to have spontaneous sex and have it more frequently, suggests Werthman.
Another worry to cross off your list: prostate cancer. Groups like the American Urological Association have reviewed all the evidence and concluded that men who have had vasectomies aren't at increased risk of the disease.
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It's virtually guaranteed to be covered by your insurance.
"Insurance companies love it when you're not creating more dependents," says Alukal. "Usually the only time we see someone pay any out of pocket cost is when they haven't already met their annual deductible." Even then, the whole procedure usually costs under ,000. For comparison, tubal ligation generally costs between ,000 and ,000. (Here are 6 more surprising benefits your health insurance may cover.)
The only catch is that having a change of heart after can be pricey: Vasectomy reversals can cost up to ,000 and are virtually never covered by insurance. Given the cost—and the fact that reversal isn't guaranteed—it's smart to make sure your guy is confident about his decision before going under the knife.
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