I’ve known that I don’t want to have children for a long time…in fact, I’ve never wanted children. Even as a young boy when people asked what I would name my future kids I knew I didn’t actually want to have them (I still had names prepared for the question though, because naming a kid would be fun). I’m far too selfish of a person to have children. Anytime I would have to give up something I want to appease my child (which obviously would be most of the time) I would resent the child for taking something from me or preventing me from getting what I want. Sure, that’s not that noble but at least I have the sense to know this aspect of myself and not just have kids anyway, like a lot of people end up doing. Because of this, I knew that getting a vasectomy would be something that I would do eventually.
As I researched getting a vasectomy I couldn’t find a good primer for what to do before, what it’s like during, and what the recovery process is like afterward. I went ahead and got the operation anyway, only feeling about 75% sure of what the whole shindig would be like. Since I just went through it all I figured I’d now write the primer I would have wanted myself and hope that other people find my experience useful.
The first thing you need to understand is that getting a vasectomy is an elective procedure, i.e. there’s not very many situations where you would need to get one. Insurance companies usually aren’t too keen on covering elective procedures, but two factors come into play that make getting a fully-covered vasectomy easy: long-term saving and the advancement of reproductive rights. The latter refers to the fact that the ongoing fight for reproductive rights for women has a side-effect of getting more reproductive rights for men as well. In my state, reproductive rights for both sexes are really great, so I have that advantage. The former factor, long-term saving, is the primary interest of the insurance companies, though. Paying once to sterilize me is a hell of a lot cheaper for them than covering the thousands and thousands of dollars it costs to have a child and keep that child healthy. Thus, it’s in their best interest to make it as easy and cheap as possible for me to get a vasectomy. Because of these two factors, my insurance covered my entire operation 100%…I didn’t even have to pay a co-pay!
If you’re interested in getting a vasectomy, call your insurance provider and find out what the requirements are to get it fully covered. For me, I had to go to an in-network doctor who would perform the operation in their office rather than in a hospital or clinic. I found a good doctor in my area really quickly who fit those qualifications and set up an appointment. I went in and he ran through the basic warnings that you would expect: this will prevent you from being able to have children, it is essentially irreversible, you will be unable to be sexual for a week after the operation, there’s no guarantee that the operation will make you 100% sterile, etc. You can find this info really easily online. After I assured him that this is what I wanted he got me onto a table and felt around my genitals to make sure that I would be able to get the operation. He felt around on each testicle to find the vas deferens attached to each one. Once he did that I was good to go, and I made an appointment to get the operation.
On the day of the operation they suggest you wear underwear that gives your balls a lot of support, i.e. briefs, not boxers. They also suggest you wear comfortable and loose-fitting clothes so that you don’t have to stretch or bend too much to get dressed and undressed. When you enter the operating room they ask you to empty your bladder in the bathroom so that you don’t have to go during the operation. I’m sure each facility will be different, but my operating room was essentially a room a bit larger than the one you usually end up sitting in when you visit a physician, and it had the same stuff in it: a counter, a raised bed, a sink, some chairs, and that’s it. You really don’t need much to perform this operation.
Once the doctor arrived he had me undress and get on the table and lay flat. He cleaned my genitals with some sort of anti-bacterial soap and then draped medical towels over me so that only my testicles were visible to him. The first step is to numb the area where the cuts will be made which is done by injecting an anesthetic directly into the scrotal sac. This sounds like it would be terribly painful, but it really wasn’t that big of a deal. It was no more than a slight pinch and then boom, I couldn’t feel anything. The doctor then cuts open your scrotal sac to get access to the vas deferens on that side. Once again: sounds painful, but the anesthetic prevented me from feeling anything at all. The doctor exposes the vas deferens, cuts it, and then burns it using a special tool that cauterizes it, preventing it from healing properly. Then he staples each side using medical titanium staples which will stay in you when the operation is over (these staples do not set off metal detectors and do not prevent you from being able to get an MRI). Then he sews you back up using thread that will eventually disintegrate on its own and covers the whole wound with some medical glue. Then he moves to the other testicle and repeats the whole process.
What’s essentially happening is he’s cutting the tube that sperm travel along to be mixed with semen when you ejaculate. Then he’s burning the ends of the tube and then stapling them shut to prevent the tube from healing properly. Once you’re all healed up you’ll be ejaculating semen with no sperm in it because the sperm have no way of getting mixed. Your body still creates the sperm but they just lay dormant, die, and then are absorbed by the body. It’s like you’re permanently stepping on one of your body’s garden hoses.
After he did the other side he cleaned me up with some more anti-bacterial soap and that was it. The whole thing took about 45 minutes. He gave me a prescription for some antibiotics (to prevent infection) and some pain-killers and I was out the door. There was some slight discomfort walking from the office back to the car but really, considering I just had my balls cut open I was feeling great.
I was instructed not to ejaculate, have sex, or engage in any serious physical activity for one full week. After 8 weeks I’m supposed to ejaculate into a cup provided for me by the doctor and bring it back to the office for testing. If the semen sample shows no sperm then I’m good to go…officially sterile! If sperm are present then that will mean another operation…but my doc assured me that in his decade-plus career he’s never had that happen before.
When I got home I was still feeling good, but after about an hour the anesthetic wore off and the soreness kicked in. “Kicked” is a good word to use because it felt like someone had kicked me in the balls and I was recovering from the effect for several hours. The pain-killers helped but there definitely was no way I was doing anything but laying in bed for the rest of the day.
It took about 48 hours for me to feel totally fine. I took a shower for the first time and was surprised that the glue stuff stayed strong. I’m guessing that the glue flakes off bit by bit over time until it’s totally gone, and by then your wounds are healed up enough to be on their own. I’m not supposed to have sex for a week, but even if I tried to I’m sure whoever looked at my testicles would not want to have sex with me…they look pretty gnarly. I’m sure that they will look fine as soon as everything is all healed up, though.
All in all, the operation was really easy and relatively benign. The worst part about it was being stuck in bed for two days, but hey…sometimes some bed time is just what you need. Basically, if you’re nervous about getting a vasectomy because of money, time, or the level of pain, don’t worry at all. It was no big deal!