Vasectomy 101

Posted on 22 May 2013

Close to 100% effective in preventing pregnancies, less costly than long-term birth control, a vasectomy is worth considering if you are certain you no longer want children. Dr Karlheinz Jehle of Cape Urology, Mediclinic Cape Town explains the things you need to weigh up before taking the cut.

My wife and I have three children and we’ve decided it’s enough. I am considering a vasectomy but how extreme is this decision?

This is such a personal decision, and it can be a tough one. The procedure itself is simple and not something to worry about. However the chances are high that it is irreversible. Performed under local anaesthetic you will need no more than half an hour to get it done and you may experience mild discomfort and bruising for a week thereafter.  And when you weigh up the risks of female contraception and female sterilisation, vasectomy comes out tops in terms of efficacy and it is a much easier and more minor operation than female sterilisation.

How reversible is a vasectomy?
What you need consider very carefully, and to discuss with your wife, is that it is pretty much a permanent procedure. Yes, in theory it can be reversed but your chances of a successful recanalisation are not high enough to count upon. In Europe the recommended age for a vasectomy is over 30.

Your chances of fathering a child after a reversal will be dependent on your age and how long after the vasectomy you do the reversal. For example, should you do the reversal within three years, there is up to a 70% success rate, but it you leave it for 20 years it drops to 25%.

What about complications?
Vasectomies are considered very safe procedures and complications, beyond some post-op swelling and bruising, are rare. Your biggest concern is being certain you no longer want to father a child. Beyond that, most men have no noticeable side effects, pain is minor and complications are rare.

There have been pregnancies after vasectomy, but it is very rare. It is 99,85% safe (webmed.com), making it the safest of form of contraception available.

What can I expect afterwards?
It is worth getting someone else to drive you after the procedure and then to lie quietly with a cold pack and tight underwear to ward off any discomfort or swelling. But remember it will take a couple of months before it is considered a safe means of birth control so wait for your doctor’s confirmation before you stop using other methods of birth control.

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Published in Surgery

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