Why I Won't Ask My Husband To Get A Vasectomy

My husband and I have two beautiful daughters and as much as I love, love, love them – we are done, done, done with having kids.


There are many options available to us and a vasectomy seemed a reasonable, reliable choice.

Before learning more about the procedure, I assumed vasectomies carried a low incidence of side effects with little overall risk.

MY husband and I didn’t know much about vasectomies, just what your average person would know I guess.  And in my experience, most men will not take sufficient effort and time to research the topic of vasectomies. However, this particular procedure influences a delicate function and sensitive area which should be regarded with additional respect, so I took it upon myself to learn on behalf of my husband.

After extensive reading, in my opinion, statistics and information that levels up to nearly 1 in 20 (5%) and higher of chronic conditions/disorders possible – this is too high a risk percentage for me to ask of my husband to carry out when there are other methods available.

Of course, I fully support every couple to make their own choice in such a private matter.

My goal in sharing this information is to create a greater awareness for men (and their partners) about the risks of vasectomy surgery, particularly such longer term pain-related side effects that may not be disclosed properly when prompted by a medical professional.



A Quick Once-Over on the Procedure

The surgical procedure for male sterilization (permanent male birth control) is known as a vasectomy. (Click here to review an interesting read about the history of vasectomies)

The procedure is considered a minor operation under local anesthesia which usually takes 20 to 30 minutes to carry out and involves cutting the tubes that carry the sperm (vas deferens) and sealing them off with sutures or surgical clips. This prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis.

…and for those of you wondering, an egg cannot be fertilized when there are no sperm in the semen.

After a short recovery at the doctor's office (usually an hour or less), the patient is free to go home and rest (bag of peas, please?).

Recovery usually takes a few days; however, patients are advised to avoid strenuous exercise for a week.

There is normally a two-month wait after the surgery when the semen is tested to confirm a negative sperm result.[*][*][*]

The cost of a vasectomy can range from $800 to $1000 in the US. In the event you change your mind, it will cost you even more – approximately around $6,000-$15,000.[*]  



The Short of It
Short term post procedure complications


Allergic reaction to the anaesthesia used during procedure[*]
A few men will develop itching & hives due to an allergic reaction to anaesthesia[*]

Post-operative pain[*]
All men experience some form of pain in the scrotum, it usually disappears within 2 days, but the scrotum will still be sore for a few more.

Bruising & swelling[*]
This is normal. The bruising and swelling doesn't always happen immediately - it often happens after a few days but in most cases has mostly disappeared after two weeks.

Bleeding[*]
Frequently blood may seep under the skin, so that penis and scrotum appear bruised. If there is no dangerous swelling, this problem usually disappears without treatment within a week or two.

Hematoma [*]
Pooling of blood within the tissue of the scrotum occurs in up to 29 percent of all vasectomy patients. It usually starts within the first week after the procedure, and can cause a painful swelling.



Lasting Pain
Chronic Pain Conditions Following Vasectomy


Post-vasectomy pain syndrome

Post-vasectomy pain syndrome (PVPS) is a chronic and sometimes debilitating condition that can develop immediately or several years after vasectomy.[*]

The incidence of PVPS can range approximately from 10-15% (that’s at least 1 out of every 10 vasectomies).[*][*][*][*]

Considering the high incidence of such a chronic condition, recent recommendations instruct doctors to warn patients there is a risk of long term pain following vasectomy procedures.[*]

The treatment for PVPS (and the other of chronic/persistent pain conditions following a vasectomy) can include conservative treatments (ex. avoidance of sexual activity and anti-inflammatory medications) or surgical methods (ex. removal of the epididymis and vasectomy reversal).


Other Chronic Pain Conditions Following Vasectomy

Persistent pain after the vasectomy procedure has been evaluated in Urological literature as early as the late 1970’s. Here are several studies examining characteristics of chronic genital pain after vasectomy:

patient’s genital pain complaints included epididymal pain, pain on ejaculation and pain during intercourse.

patients complained of testicular pain as a dull ache that increased with sexual arousal, intercourse or ejaculation. A retrospective study of post-vasectomy patients found 33% had chronic testicular discomfort and 15% considered the pain troublesome. The pain was described by some as a dull ache and others as a sharp severe pain. The sharp pain was testicular and could increase in frequency after intercourse.

5% of the patients complained of pain associated with intercourse.

4% of 488 men had pain with intercourse. Other patients with post-vasectomy pain have required epididymectomy for relief of pain.

9 out of 10 patients reported constant pain in either the testes or epididymides.  Four of ten had pain with activity, and three had pain during intercourse.



Uncertainty of Cancer Association
Prostate Cancer Concern


The link with prostate cancer and vasectomy procedures is inconclusive.

With several studies confirming an increased risk, it is medically advised that when a man considers a vasectomy, the uncertain association between cancer risk and the procedure should be a routine part of informed consent.[*][*][*][*]

In 1993, a team of Harvard epidemiologists presented data from two large studies in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). One of the two studies was retrospective, while the other was prospective and followed new patients. Both studies found vasectomy to be associated with a moderately elevated relative risk of prostate cancer that increased with time after the procedure. After more than 20 years, a vasectomized man appeared to be twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as a nonvasectomized man of the same age.[*]

A definitive conclusion has not yet been made regarding cancer risk and vasectomy, as many studies provide no association with cancer and vasectomy.  It is noted however, that the vasectomy procedure with other potential risk factors (such as race, family history, and dietary habits) may link vasectomy as an associated factor (but not causally linked) to the development of prostate cancer as a primary carcinogen.[*]

The studies that have been completed over the last 20 years are inconclusive, yet the medical community agrees that further research is essential.[*][*][*][*]



Infection


While infection after a vasectomy is fairly common, a small number of men do run into trouble after the operation (one study illustrated a 32.9% overall infection rate after vasectomy).[*][*][*]

The most common infection following vasectomy is of the incision site. Infections of the urinary tract and epididymis are also typical. Rarer types of infections can include Fournier's gangrene and endocarditis (an inflammation of your heart's inner lining).[*]

Any infection, particularly with the growing occurrence of bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, should be treated seriously.

Here is Karen’s story regarding infection after a routine vasectomy procedure on her husband: How a vasectomy operation killed my husband.



Where have all the cowboys gone?
Sperm backup, re-absorption and immune response


When a vasectomy is performed sperm are still produced, however, there is no longer an exit strategy. This results in several peculiar responses from the body:


Congestive Epididymitis

If the re-absorption of backed up sperm fails or is inadequate, the epididymides become enlarged, inflamed and can be quite painful. Epididymitis is one of the more common post-vasectomy complications, occurring in approximately 1 out of every 15 vasectomies. Heat and anti-inflammatory medications (alone or combined with antibiotics) are used to treat this condition. This particular side effect can lead to chronic post-vasectomy pain and can affect a man’s ability to participate in physical activities on a long-term basis.[*][*][*][*]


Anti-Sperm Antibodies

Typically, immune cells will not come in contact with sperm, however, in the event of vasectomy certain barriers are breached an immune response will be mounted.  

Membranes in the epididymis increase in size to break down and absorb matured sperm which triggers the immune system to produce more macrophages and the large majority of men (up to 75%) will develop anti-sperm antibodies.[*][*]

Concern has encouraged researchers into learning more about anti-sperm antibodies and the effects on the body because immune reactions against parts of one's own body can cause disease.[*]

Current knowledge has not yet yielded large concern at this time, nevertheless rheumatoid arthritis, tumor growth, atherosclerosis (clogging of arteries), and multiple sclerosis are just some of the illnesses suspected or known to be caused by immune reactions of this type.[*][*][*]


Granulomas

When sperm leaks out into the scrotum via the cut/damaged vas defrans (the tube that is severed to keep the sperm from entered the semen), another immune response occurs. The sperm is surrounded by a protective mass (granuloma) which is commonly felt as swelling and radiating pain in the groin which can last up to year.[*]

Granulomas occur in approximately 40% of vasectomies, nearly 1 out of every 5 men that has a vasectomy will experience pain that last more than 3 months (described as interfering with daily activities).[*][*][*]



****

Before choosing a vasectomy, a couple should seriously consider the many alternative methods of contraception – particularly when there is risk is chronic pain.

I hope this information helps with creating more awareness of risk that may not be discussed openly/willingly from your medical professional. 


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19 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. I never really liked the idea of my husband getting a vasectomy, but he was aware of the risks and comfortable with them. I think having an IUD baby, the third kid in four years had a little something to do with it. ;)

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      It's great to hear other people's accounts of how certain procedures work better for their situation.

      Thanks Myn : )

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  2. Thank you for this post! I've read before about reasons to not get vasectomies but I love how thorough you are and how simple everything is laid out! I'm featuring you in my In A Nutshell this week!

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    1. That's great news Brittany! I always check it to see if I made it on your list lol.

      I'll be sure to share the link : )

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  3. I am at the stage you had been before the research and had no idea about all the possible side effects. I couldn't possibly ask my husband to do this now. While he is in great health, his family has a bad history of cancer and that risk really stood out to me. Thank you so much for sharing! Would love to know if you post about women getting their tubes tide!

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    1. Great suggestion! I would never consider it for myself (tubal litagation), but the information would be worth sharing.

      Thanks for the comment Kimberly :)

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    2. Essure is another option for women (with it's own risks & benefits) it may be worth doing a post about tubal ligation vs Essure for those women who want to know more about their options!

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  4. Wow! I never knew any of this. We managed to wait this one out until it's no longer an issue. I have successfully bridged the change of life! Woohoo! But I will share this article to all those who are still in the danger zone. Seriously, I thought this was our best option but we just never got around to it, Thank God!

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    1. I was the same way Jeanne. I always thought we would eventually get this done (by 'we I mean my husband lol).

      The more exposure I got to the information and potential risk and chronic side effects, it just isnt worth it for me to push for.

      If my husband wants to complete the procedure for himself, then I would be supportive of his INFORMED choice... but I dont see that happening!

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    2. I'll be sharing this. Lots of my mommy friends are hoping this is a viable option for them. (We're holding out for baby number four! Lol) this is laid out so well with a lot of info. Thank you. It may be more helpful with their decision.

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  5. I have been "arguing" with women about this for decades. The general feeling seems to be the woman gave birth and generally took care of birth control issues for years, now it's the mans turn to return the favor with a vasectomy. I've been told never to get my tubes tied because of all the possible complications, pain and recovery time, but that vas is a quick easy complication free event for a man. Thank you for reminding people there are risks and complications involved with any surgery or procedure, including this one!

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  6. I have been "arguing" with women about this for years. Many seem to have the attitude that the woman gets pregnant and gives birth, she generally takes care of hormonal birth control for years, now it's time for the man to do his part with a vasectomy. I've even heard women go so far as to say they will refuse to have sex or refuse to use birth control until their partners get it done.

    I have been told absolutely do not get your tubes tied because of the risks and pain and long term complications. But vasectomy is presented as risk free, just a little soreness for a day or two and that's the least he can go through after all you've been through...

    Thank you for reminding us that ALL surgeries and procedures have risks including this one, and each patient and couple needs to weigh what is best for them, after knowing all the facts.

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  7. Deciding to get a vasectomy isn’t just about the medical risks. While it may seem like a good idea at one time, you have to remember that this procedure, though reversible, doesn’t guarantee that the reversal procedure will work. If you’re thinking of getting a vasectomy, you have to be sure that it is what you want. You can still change your mind, sure, but it’s going to be expensive and most likely ineffective for most men. Thank you for listing down all the possible side effects, Amanda! This is will help a lot of men and/or couples who are thinking of getting a vasectomy for their main man (for married couples).

    Timothy Burke @ www.VasectomySydney.com.au

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  8. Was going to get this done this past fall, but procrastinated. I definitely have my concerns. With three kids, we know we are finished. As much as we would love them if it happened, we just CAN'T have another, lol. Birth control options kind of suck though. Hormonal options are out. Who wants to use a condom as a long-term solution when they're married? Not this guy. We've had success with the wife temping every morning, but it still makes me nervous. I don't think there is an easy answer!

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    1. I WHOLEHEARTILY agree David!!

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  9. I agree, the natural charting is the only birth control without side effects. And we already got a baby that way. I am extremely grateful to my husband for getting the vasectomy, as another pregnancy would be too risky for me. I just can't stop worrying about all the 'what if's.

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    1. I feel the same way - I would be grateful if my husband choose to have a vasectomy because it would displace a lot of worry! But I understand that it is his body and the procedure dis carry risk (both short term and long term).

      Thank you so much for your comment!!

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  10. I ran across your blog searching for answers as to why my husband is covered in hives. He had a vasectomy on April 12 and he's been battling hives wih antihistimines for about three weeks now. They just won't go away and they're everywhere. The doc who did the procedure said there was no way the operation could have caused the hives and that he should visit his gp. It's scary that he would say that. Thanks for the info. I read somewhere else that the hives might eventually go away on their own so I'm crossing my fingers.

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  11. Thanks for this. I have had chronic scrotal pain for 9 years since my vasectomy that has pretty much destroyed my once loving relationship with my wife, my career, enjoyment of life. I'm trying to avoid hyperbole but chronic post vasectomy pain has really destroyed my once very happy life. I'm posting this from my kids swim practice and am uncomfortable as I type it. We don't have sex anymore, my wife and I. My desire has been turned off like a switch. I resent her for yelling at me during our one discussion on the subject of birth control where she threatened to cut me off from sex if I did not wear a condom. She had a bad day at work and after kid three said she was going to stop nursing and NOT ginger to take the pill anymore. "What are you going to do about it!" A few words during a bad moment after work. I said at that time I was not sure about letting someone cut on me down there and she said "FINE! , I guess I have to do EVERYTHING!!!" When I replied I guess I can look into it she said "OH NO! If you do and any little thing happens I'll never here the end of it...." PRophetic words. I did not think I would end up in pain. The operation was not bad but over time I developed horrific pain sitting, epididymitis and pain with nocturnal erecting so bad I would wake every night unable to fall back asleep. It felt like I was being stabbed with a burning hot needle. A vasectomy reversal too the pain from about an 8 down to a 1 or 2 and I can at least sleep through the night. I still have a lot of pain sitting at work and am uncomfortable down there almost all the time. I'm furious this happened to me.

    If you live you're man and your marriage do not push him to get a vasectomy

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Please be respectful. If you are about to say something that you would not let your child hear, then please refrain from saying it.