What is a Vasectomy?
Vasectomy is a simple operation designed to make a man sterile, or unable to father a child. It is used as a means of contraception in many parts of the world.
Vasectomy involves blocking the tubes through which sperm pass into the semen. Sperm are produced in a man's testis and stored in an adjacent structure known as the epididymis. During sexual climax, the sperm move from the epididymis through a tube called the vas deferens and mix with other components of semen to form the ejaculate. All vasectomy techniques involve cutting or otherwise blocking both the left and right vas deferens, so the man's ejaculate will no longer contain sperm, and he will not be able to make a woman pregnant.
In the conventional approach, a physician makes one or two small incisions, or cuts, in the skin of the scrotum, which has been numbed with a local anesthetic. The vas is cut, and a small piece may be removed. Next, the doctor ties the cut ends and sews up the scrotal incision. The entire procedure is then repeated on the other side.
In a no-scalpel vasectomy, the doctor feels for the vas under the skin of the scrotum and holds it in place with a small clamp. Then a special instrument is used to make a tiny puncture in the skin and stretch the opening so the vas can be cut and tied. This approach produces very little bleeding, and no stitches are needed to close the punctures, which heal quickly by themselves. The newer method also produces less pain and fewer complications than conventional vasectomy.
After vasectomy surgery, the patient will probably feel sore for a few days, and he should rest for at least 1 day. However, he can expect to recover completely in less than a week. Many men have the procedure on a Friday and return to work on Monday.
Complications of Vasectomies
Complications of a having a vasectomy are relatively uncommon and almost never serious. Nevertheless, men who develop these symptoms at any time should inform their physician.
The most common complications of vasectomies are:
A man can resume sexual activity within a few days after vasectomy, but precautions should be taken against pregnancy until a test shows that his semen is free of sperm. Generally, this test is performed after the patient has had 10-20 post-vasectomy ejaculations. If sperm are still present in the semen, the patient is told to return later for a repeat test.
Disadvantages of having a Vasectomy
The chief advantage of vasectomy--its permanence--is also its chief disadvantage. The procedure itself is simple, but reversing it is difficult, expensive, and often unsuccessful.
Although it is extremely effective for preventing pregnancy, vasectomy does not offer protection against AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases. It is important that vasectomized men continue to use condoms in any sexual encounter that carries the risk of contracting or transmitting infection.
Masculinity and Sexuality
Vasectomy does not affect production or release of testosterone, the male hormone responsible for a man's sex drive, beard, deep voice, and other masculine traits. The operation also has no effect on sexuality. Erections, climaxes, and the amount of ejaculate remain the same.
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