Hamish Cameron ponders the pros and cons of having vas deferens severed.
Recently I’ve given some thought to getting the snip. Two kids are enough in our family; another would only bring mental ruin. Being fast, cheap and 99 per cent reliable there’s no reason a man keen on a permanent form of contraception shouldn’t lie back, offer up his tackle and accept the cold, sharp sting of responsibility.
Problem is even a simple diagram of the procedure causes an uncomfortable throb in my bathing suit area. Then there are the old husbands’ tales, that there’s an increased chance of cancer; that being spayed would make me feel like less of a man. But if more than 30,000 Australian men do it every year, it can’t be that bad — right?
I sought out a couple of mates who’d been through the experience to give me the low down on what really happens. Matt had a vasectomy after he and his partner had finished breeding, and Glen and his partner didn’t want children. Worried he’d chicken out on seeing a scalpel zero in on his privates, Matt had the procedure under general anaesthetic. In contrast, Glen arrived at the clinic on his motorbike and opted for a local. “Getting the needle was the worst bit. The actual operation went by so quick I had to ask, ‘Is that it?'” he says. All stitched up. Glen hopped back on his bike and rode home avoiding speed bumps. By his account the post-op discomfort was nothing painkillers and rest couldn’t fix. “No worse than a hard kick in the nuts,” Matt says, “except you have to pay for it.”
Matt’s glad he did it — but the feeling he was “dragged kicking and screaming like a cow to the slaughter” still smarts. “I’d have liked more of a chance to build up to it,” he says, “but I was given an ultimatum by a devilish and wily woman.”
It’s no wonder men who feel pressured into sterilisation can develop feelings of inadequacy — their potency’s gone and ain’t coming back. But having a vasectomy isn’t the same as being castrated. What’s more, production of testosterone and sexual drive and enjoyment are unaffected. And there’s no evidence that having the snip increases the risk of prostate or testicular cancer.
It’s what Glen endured a decade after his snip that’s given me pause. Like one in 45 men, he sought a reversal. In stark contrast to the snip, Glen’s vasovasostomy involved microsurgery. It was also incredibly expensive and hurt like hell— becoming worse thanks to an ensuing infection. The real kicker for Glen and his partner was the fact his fertility wasn’t restored. Success rates for reversal— between 40 and 75 per cent — are dependant on how long ago the vasectomy took place. Like any unused machinery, the sperm-producing tubules gradually lose their effectiveness. The snipped ends of each vas also become harder to reattach.
So even though my wife and I are being run ragged by the two we’ve got, who knows how we’ll feel in a couple of years. The kids will be in school, my thriller movie script might have led to a fortune and there is something mildly addictive about making your own people.
Stemming the flow below
A vasectomy involves cutting or blacking the vas deferens —the tubes which carry sperm from the testes. Small incisions are made on the side of the scrotum and each vas is drawn out. While the exact procedure can vary, commonly the vas are cut and a small piece removed before the ends are either tied or cauterised to prevent sperm escaping. Blocked sperm is reabsorbed into the body. After surgery it still takes between 15 and 20 ejaculations for residual sperm to pass out of the reproductive tract.