Vasectomy is an effective permanent birth control method for men. Vasectomy is less invasive, safer, and requires less recovery time than tubal ligation, which is the sterilization procedure for women. Yet, in 2012, 15.5 percent of women were relying on female sterilization to pregnancy, compared with only 5 .1 percent who were relying on their partner’s vasectomy, according to the 2011-2013 National Survey of Family Growth.
A vasectomy prevents the release of sperm into the semen. This is usually done by cutting and tying the vas deferens, which are the tubes that carry the sperm from the testicles to the urethra. This procedure can be done in your doctor’s office under local anesthesia, and recovery time is usually a week or less. It is also less expensive than a tubal ligation.
Despite the ease of the procedure, many men are reluctant to get a vasectomy because of common misconceptions. The following are five myths about vasectomies and the facts you need to know.
Myth #1: A vasectomy decreases your sex drive or makes you impotent.
Facts: Neither of these are true, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). A vasectomy does not have any bearing on your sex drive, testosterone levels, your ability to have an erection, or your ability to ejaculate. Semen, the fluid you ejaculate, is made in the prostate and seminal vessels, which are left untouched during vasectomy. In one survey, men who had a vasectomy were more likely to be satisfied with their relationships, possibly “because the procedure decreases anxiety about unwanted pregnancy and conflict over the use of contraception,” according to World Vasectomy Day, an organization aimed at helping men become more informed about their contraception choices.
Myth #2: A vasectomy is painful and there is a long recovery period.
Facts: According to the National Institutes of Health, a vasectomy is not painful because local anesthetic is used. Some men might have mild pain, swelling, and bruising afterward, but you can return to your normal physical activities within 3 to 7 days. A vasectomy usually takes about 30 minutes and can often be done in the doctor’s office, according to AAFP. During the procedure, you might feel some tugging and pulling. Your doctor may tell you to wear tight-fitting underwear or a jack strap for a few days after the surgery to support the scrotum, but otherwise, over-the-counter pain relievers and a bag of ice are all that are needed after the surgery.
Myth #3: A vasectomy cannot be reversed.
Facts: A vasectomy doesn’t stop you from producing sperm, but rather prevents it from mixing with your semen. Therefore, if you later decide you want to have children, it may be reversible in some cases. However, it is important to keep in mind that vasectomy is not intended to be a short-term birth control measure. Vasectomy reversal is a more complicated surgery that must be performed at a hospital, according to AAFP.
Myth #4: The effects of a vasectomy are immediate.
Facts: Vasectomies are highly effective in preventing pregnancy, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but it isn’t immediate. Men can have sperm in their urethra for several months after the procedure. That means you still need to take precautions for the first two to three months afterward, according to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP). Your doctor will check to make sure you are in the clear at a follow-up visit; you should wait until they give the OK before you forego other methods of birth control.
Myth #5: You are at greater risk of developing prostate cancer after a vasectomy.
Facts: Your risk of prostate cancer doesn’t go up after vasectomy, ARHP says. This myth originated about 20 years ago, according the World Vasectomy Day, when two studies suggested men who had a vasectomy had an increased risk of developing prostate cancer. However, a large study completed in 2016 found there was no link between vasectomy and prostate cancer risk.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.