There are many common myths and misconceptions within society when it comes to vasectomy. Most people are unaware of the modern “No-Scalpel” technique, and just how much this has revolutionised the procedure. Also, men love to frighten each other and exaggerate how brutal an ordeal it is to undergo the dreaded “snip”, which unfortunately dissuades many men from even considering it. Every man has heard a story from a friend about the cousin of a mate who had a vasectomy and “they swelled up like a pair of grapefruits”, or “he walked like a cowboy for a month”. This was admittedly more common with the older method, but is all but unheard of now with the technique we use. If the truth got out that it is a simple, walk-in/walk-out 15 minute procedure with minimal discomfort, men wouldn’t be nearly as nervous about vasectomy.
The most common myths about vasectomy that I hear are:
- General anaesthetic is required
False. Gone are the days of needing a hospital admission and general anaesthetic for vasectomy. Some men still choose to do this (maybe because they are unaware of how simple the procedure is now), and do not realise how much extra they are paying for the anaesthetist, expensive hospital fees, and how unnecessary it is. Some evidence even suggests vasectomy under GA is associated with higher levels of pain and bruising afterwards, as surgeons don’t need to be as gentle with a patient that is knocked out! In reality, local anaesthetic is all that is required.
Some men expect to pay thousands of dollars for a vasectomy. Given that it is now under local anaesthetic, and it is usually a 15 minute procedure, prices for vasectomy are now much more reasonable.
- Urologist or specialist referral is necessary
Referrals to urologists were required when hospital admission and a general anaesthetic were necessary, but these days are long gone.
- Pain during procedure
Most men expect to suffer significant pain during and after the procedure. They are surprised (and relieved) to find that there is only some mild discomfort for a few seconds as the local anaesthetic is applied, and then the procedure is relatively pain-free. Discomfort in the recovery period is also now much improved with the “No-Scalpel” approach.
- Time of procedure
The older technique took closer to 30 minutes to complete. The newer approach takes between 15 and 20 minutes in most cases.
No more extensive bruising, and walking painfully for weeks after the procedure. Some men do bruise more than others, but in most cases it is very mild. Heavy lifting and intense exercise must still be avoided for one week after a vasectomy, but men with office jobs can usually return to work the following day.
Many men ask about the effect of vasectomy on testosterone levels, libido, erectile function, and general sexual performance. The answer, after multitudes of studies, is that vasectomy has no effect on any of these. Some studies have suggested that there may actually be an improvement in sexual function for men after vasectomy, as they can relax and no longer worry about contraception or fathering any more children!
- Risk of other medical conditions
Some men are concerned (or have heard) that vasectomy can lead to an increased risk of prostate cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, dementia or testicular cancer. According to the American Urological Association Guidelines published in 2015, decades of research and studies have repeatedly proven that there is no association between vasectomy and any of these conditions.
Some men believe that following vasectomy there is no ejaculate after climax. This is not true, as over 95% of ejaculate is made up of fluid from a small gland called the seminal vesicle. Sperm itself makes up only 3-5% of the volume of ejaculate, so most men do not notice any difference in ejaculate following vasectomy.
So if your family is complete, and you are certain you do not want to father any more children, vasectomy is an ideal option for you. The most common response I hear from patients after their vasectomy – “Is that it?”
Don’t believe the hype – vasectomy is now very simple. It just doesn’t make for as good a story between mates.
– Dr Michael Beckett MBBS, FRACGP, DRANZCOG, DCH