Vasectomies – A cut above the rest
My wife and I both agree that our family is now complete with our two beautiful girls. Our current conversations have revolved around our long term birth control options. My wife gets sick from birth control pills and from my end, the alternatives are all pretty limited especially since “natural” birth control is not an option for us (way too risky!). Unlike some of our friends, starting a family came REALLY easy for us – so much so that we picked the month of the second birth so that it didn’t interfere with my work schedule at the university. This also means we have NO room for errors or lapses in judgment in the future. I don’t want to be one of those parents that says, “ Yes, I have 3 kids – one is 16, the other is 14 and my youngest is, um… 2 years old.”
The one option that has crossed my mind lately is certainly a permanent solution – a vasectomy. Even though it seems like a quick fix that would allow years of care free living and peace of mind, the under reported and serious side effects make me a little reluctant to do it.
The first cut is the deepest
The first known vasectomy was performed on a dog in 1823. History didn’t really keep track of when the first vasectomies happened on humans, but by the 1900’s, there was a historical movement known as Eugenic sterilization. During this time vasectomy procedures rapidly spread throughout Europe. Politicians and members of the oligarchy campaigned for the sterilization of socially undesirable individuals in Germany, Switzerland and other countries. Even in the United States, around 65,000 prisoners and patients were forcibly sterilized during this time. After WWII, vasectomies in the US were (and still are) considered as an acceptable form of birth control for families due to its low risk and cost.
What is a vasectomy?
The procedure itself is straight forward. The vas deferens is a small tube that connects the testicles to the urethra – it is simply cut and whoomp, no more sperm! This out-patient process only takes half an hour. Once the vas deferens has been cut, it will be sealed either by cauterization or stitching. From what I hear from friends and family, even though you are under mild anesthesia during the procedure, you can feel the tugging and smell the cauterizing of your vas deferens.
There’s a big possibility (as high as 40% in some studies) that a blow-out may occur during post vasectomy period. An average man produces about 85 million sperm cells a day. Since there’s no more way out, the sperm will remain in the testicles until they get absorbed by the body. As the testicles continue to produce sperm cells, the sealed cords or deferens may swell up and burst. This means your sperm can leak into any available body cavities. Since this condition is not natural, the body releases antibodies as its defense mechanism which unfortunately reacts negatively with the sperm cells, leading to severe complications and in some cases, additional surgeries.
In a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 1993, it was found out that men who had vasectomy surgeries are more prone to prostate cancer. If you ask my dad, he’d tell you that all of his health problems started after his vasectomy. He’s battled prostate cancer and has gone through ten surgeries to “fix” the severe pain and discomfort since going under the knife 15 years ago. His bladder is now damaged and is forced to wear adult diapers at work. In addition to the physical pain, I know that the emotional distress and embarrassment is sometimes too much for him to handle.
Although thousands of men have successfully had this procedure with minimal complications, I am still fearful that there is a growing number of men that are silently suffering from the unplanned side effects. In the back of my mind, I find it a bit troubling that the techniques and rationale for this this surgery hasn’t changed much over the last 100+ years. These procedures started at a time when arsenic was commonplace in medicine, doctors prescribed mercury to patients, and heroin was given to infants so they could sleep through the night.
For now, I am going to leave my vas deferens alone. If you have any personal experiences you’d like to share, feel free to send them to me privately.
I’m scheduled for “the big snip” in February, and have done a lot of the same research that you’ve outlined, as well as discussing things at length with the doctor who will be performing the surgery.
My understanding of the side effects are that they are quite common (particularly the little lumps), but they’re also almost always short-term in nature. Chronic pain can happen, but it’s quite a rare occurrence.
Still, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly, and good for you in doing the research and reading prior to making a decision. I don’t think everyone who makes the decision necessarily does so with a proper understanding of the procedure.