If you’re a man reading this article, let me first of all congratulate you for reading it. Male sterilisation is, something of a taboo in many circles, even though, it’s actually the safest and easiest of all forms of permanent contraception.
A vasectomy is a permanent form of male contraception. However, the vasectomy procedure can be also surgically reversed.
Let’s look at all you need to know about having a vasectomy in the UK (United Kingdom).
A vasectomy is the surgical cutting or blocking of the vas deferens tubes. These tiny tubes carry sperm granulomas (baby sperm cells) to their next developmental stage.
The sperm is the smallest of all the cells in the human body. And we are talking about full grown adult sperm cells with facial hair and all.
A vasectomy cuts the connecting tubes that take the baby sperm cells to join with the seminal fluid. That means the sperm cells do not develop further and they will never make it to become part of the semen.
In a conventional vasectomy operation, once the chosen anesthesia has been given and pain relief is effective, the surgeon cuts a small access through the scrotum with a surgical knife. Once there’s access, he locates the vas deferens and severs both of them. The tubes can then be left open. This is knowns as an open ended vasectomy.
A closed ended vasectomy is where both ends of each of the tubes that carry sperm granulomas are cauterised.
An open ended procedure makes it easier for a future vasectomy reversal.
Once the vas deferens have been cut, the surgeon will suture the small incision in the scrotum.
No scalpel vasectomy
In a no scalpel vasectomy procedure, an orifice is made in the scrotum. This orifice is then stretched to allow the surgeon visual access. Then the surgical procedure is the same as in the conventional vasectomy, severing the tubes that carry sperm.
Once the procedure is finished, no stitches will be required and the tiny puncture hole is then left to heal on its own.
General anaesthetic vs local anaesthetic
Most vasectomy procedures are done under local anaesthetic in any sexual health clinic. Yes, that’s right. If you want a vasectomy, ask your closest family planning association, as it’s very likely the procedure can be carried out at your local contraception clinic.
Having a vasectomy performed under local anaesthetic is a practically painless procedure. The skin of the scrotum is numbed with a cream before the local anesthetic is injected.
However, if having a vasectomy under local anasthetic is something that causes you anxiety, a vasectomy operation can be performed under light general anaesthesia.
If this is the case, recovery time will take longer as you cannot be discharged until the general anasthetic has completely left your system
Vasectomy side effects
Few men report serious side effects.
Some of the side effects you might experience after having your sperm carrying tubes blocked are:
- Discomfort. It has to be said. You might experience some mild discomfort afterwards. Just take it easy, move as little as possible and treat your genital area gently for a couple of days
- Presence of blood in semen. It’s quite common for blood to be present in your first semen sample. As everything heals properly, your semen will appear free of blood after the first few ejaculations.
- The appearance of a hematoma (blood clot) in the scrotum. Following any surgical procedure, there’s a possibility of bruising from the breaking of small capillary blood vessels. The blood inside the hematoma and any pain related to it will be gone in about a week after the surgery (at the latest)
- Swelling of the area. Following a vasectomy, a man’s testicles might appear swollen for a few days. This is because of manipulation of the area during the procedure. Sperm leaking through the now open vas deferens can also contribute to the first days’ swelling
- Long term testicle pain. Very few men experience long term pain derived from a vasectomy. In these rare cases, a vasectomy reversal will most likely eliminate the pain.
For many decades, research into vasectomy procedures, techniques and side effects has been consistent. Vasectomies have been considered successful since they were first performed.
Although there is lots of research literature from studies performed at the end of the 20th century, it’s difficult to find new research from the past decade. I can only conclude from this data that the techniques have been effective and difficult to improve upon, from the very beginning of the vasectomy procedure.
No connection has been found between having a vasectomy and an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, testicular cancer or erectile dysfunction.
At what age can you get a vasectomy in the UK?
When you are 18 you’re legally allowed to make any decisions about your own body. However, if you’re under 30 you might need to browse a bit more, as doctors might be a little reluctant to perform vasectomies on a young lad or someone who hasn’t yet had any children.
Private vasectomy cost – UK
A vasectomy in the UK is covered by the NHS. However, the waiting lists are quite long.
If you wish to have a vasectomy immediately, you can do so privately.
The Royal College of Surgeons has a specific section for urologists. We advise you to browse your options a bit as the price might vary greatly, depending on the doctor and the area where you are planning to have your vasectomy.
Prices vary from £480 to £1200.
Once the vasectomy operation has been performed, the ejaculated seminal fluid will be sperm free. A few weeks are necessary for healing. Professionals advise men to wait around ten weeks after the vasectomy to have unprotected sex.
This doesn’t mean you cannot have sex for this length of time. 10 weeks is just the time it takes for all the sperm in the system to clear out.
If you have sex before this time, be aware that the first few ejaculations might still carry viable sperm and you can get your partner pregnant if you don’t use additional forms of contraception during that time.
To have a vasectomy reversed is quite easy.
The surgical procedure is very similar to the vasectomy itself. However, a reversal will take more time than a conventional vasectomy as reconstructing little tubes that carry sperm take a bit more time than just severing them.
The less time between the original vasectomy and the vasectomy reversal operation, the better the chances for success.
You should go privately to have your vasectomy reversed as the NHS doesn’t usually fund this procedure.
Why do men refuse vasectomies?
Although vasectomies are becoming more common as a permanent form of contraception, some men are still refusing to get one, for different reasons.
Most of these reasons are unfounded and are often based on male pride.
Many men feel all reproductive issues should be a woman’s business. She’s the one who gets pregnant, breastfeeds and raises the children so she should be the one who is permanently sterilised.
Without wanting to get into a family discussion, here are the reasons why a woman shouldn’t be the one to be permanently sterilised, if the man can:
- The fallopian tubes (the tubes that carry your partner’s egg from the ovary to the uterus) are very difficult to access, making major abdominal surgery necessary
- There’s an increased risk of permanent damage
- A woman’s sterilization requires a longer recovery than a man’s; a vasectomy is quite an easy and straightforward procedure.
Even if both processes were equally easy and low risk (which they aren’t), after the woman has gone through the pregnancies, the births, the feeding and the body changes, it seems more than fair that it’s the man who takes responsibility for permanent contraception.
How common is a vasectomy in the UK?
In the UK there are about 11,000-12000 vasectomies per year. This is an extremely low number, considering the easiness of the procedure, the relatively few side effects and the possibility of having it reversed in the future.
You can read more about vasectomies in the following articles: