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Vasectomy is a scary subject for many men — the thought of having a part of your scrotum cut can be daunting, to say the least! Even its nickname ‘The Snip’ conjures uncomfortable images in many men’s minds.
I was no different. While any surgery is scary, the knowledge that someone would be cutting me open ‘down there’ intensified those feelings of apprehension.
The idea of getting a vasectomy was raised by my wife about a year after the birth of our second child — we knew our family was complete. We became parents later in life (technically, the term ‘geriatric pregnancy’ was used to describe both of my wife’s pregnancies — a pretty insulting definition when you think about it!) — perhaps if we were younger, we might have gone for a third child but as it was, we were more than content with two beautiful, healthy and happy children.
When our daughter was about one, the ‘V word’ was raised — vasectomy. My wife had taken some form of contraception for decades, and basically, she had had enough! And the thought of using condoms wasn’t an attractive option to us.
“Have you thought about having a vasectomy?” she asked one evening.
I hadn’t in any great depth, so I researched it and spoke to several mates who had had the procedure. Each of them said it wasn’t as scary or invasive as they initially feared.
I also took a lot of time to reflect on whether I was 100% certain I didn’t want any more children. Being a dad is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me (yes, the hardest, but no doubt the greatest), so wouldn’t more be better? Or what if one day I separated from my wife, and then met someone else who wanted to have children with me … what would happen then? As unlikely as that was, I had to consider the possibility, and still my answer was ‘no more kids’. I was approaching my mid-40s and I didn’t fancy the idea of becoming a new dad again even later in life — my aching bones and fuzzy, sleep-deprived head regularly remind me that parenthood is a young person’s game, and I didn’t fancy the idea of crawling around the floor, changing nappies and so forth into my 50s.
Vasectomy was definitely the right move for me, my wife and our family, so I set about joining the nearly 29,000 men who have vasectomies each year in Australia1.
The next move was to speak to my GP, who asked me several important questions and reinforced the seriousness of this decision. It was also an opportunity for me to ask him about the procedure. One reservation was whether my testosterone levels would be affected, but he reassured me that my hormones wouldn’t be affected at all.
Comfortable that I was aware of all the facts, he then referred me to a urologist (vasectomies can also be performed by some GPs and general surgeons).
I had to wait several weeks before my first consultation with the urologist. My wife was invited to join too, but couldn’t make it, but I didn’t feel I missed out with her being unable to attend — we had discussed the issue at length and were on the same page.
In the urologist’s office, I won’t lie, it was slightly awkward having to discuss my scrotum and penis, sex life and so forth with a man I’d just met. But that’s the nature of sexual and reproductive health, I guess! For the specialist, I was just another patient.
Before booking in for the surgery itself, I had to sign a consent form, which spelled out several key points, including that the procedure’s effect would be to “render me sterile”, and that there may be “some bruising and swelling of the scrotum after the operation.” Even though I was entering this decision with eyes wide open, the seriousness of those words jumped off the page. You need to be certain about your decision before committing to it.
Then it was time to wait — six weeks, in fact. I wouldn’t say the upcoming ‘snip’ was hanging over my head at all, but I knew it was on the horizon, and I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. The fact the procedure was only supposed to take 15-30 minutes and was done on-site at the urology clinic gave me some comfort — surely it couldn’t be that bad?
Thankfully, when it was time for the procedure, it wasn’t bad at all. At the clinic, I was led inside a small room and instructed by a friendly nurse to lie down on a bed after stripping off below the waist. I tried to think about something else as local anaesthetic was applied by the urologist, and then everything went numb around my groin area. As the urologist got to work, the procedure was uncomfortable but thankfully not painful — the worst part was probably hearing the sounds of the operation taking place despite not being able to feel anything! It reminded me of having some dentistry work done after local anaesthetic — not being able to feel the dentist go about their work, but hearing the scrapes and whirrs is extremely discomforting.
Then, after about 20 minutes of staring at the ceiling, trying to think some happy thoughts, it was all over. Despite the relative painlessness of the procedure, I have to admit I was much relieved when it was all over. But at least I was in-and-out faster than my initial consultation with the urologist!
Afterwards, I was instructed to sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, to ensure I didn’t have any delayed reactions or complications. I was a bit woozy from the anaesthetic, but thankfully, I was fine to be driven home by my wife soon enough.
In terms of immediate pain relief, the only thing prescribed, and needed, was paracetamol. The pain was constant for a couple of days but not too intense … the only way I can describe it is a similar dull pain to getting a semi-hard knock on the balls (from a slow-moving tennis ball, not a cricket ball). That continued for a couple of days as I rested up on the couch, binge-watching TV and catching up on books that had long been gathering dust on our shelves.
There was some ongoing sensitivity in my groin area for a few weeks afterwards, but only when it received direct contact, like an excitable toddler jumping on me unannounced! But eventually, things returned to exactly as they had before — yes, including sexually.
Psychologically, I must admit a part of me initially felt like I’d lost something — perhaps some deep-down feeling of my masculinity, but much like the physical discomfort, those feelings dissipated in time; I knew I was the same person that I had been before, just without the ability to reproduce anymore, which was what I wanted!
The final part of the vasectomy process involved having to ‘prove’ the vasectomy was successful via a semen sample. This meant providing a sample after ejaculating a minimum of 10 times post-vasectomy (due to sperm remaining in the reproductive system for some time). The results were sent to my GP, who soon let me know the vasectomy worked.
Now, some six months later, I can confidently say the entire process was a lot less scary than I initially feared. No surgery is exactly fun, but my vasectomy was relatively painless and my recovery was faster than expected. I feel exactly the same as I did before the surgery, both physically and mentally.
My advice to any men out there who think a vasectomy is the best option for them and their family, but are too scared or intimidated to go down that path — don’t be! Yes, the surgery takes place in our most sensitive area, but there’s really nothing to fear.
- Data from medicarestatistics.humanservices.gov.au. Accessed 29 July 2021.