Dad: What It Feels Like to Have a Vasectomy
The real injury may be to a man’s psyche. (Photo by Mark Hooper/UpperCut Images/Getty Images)
When a man contemplates ending his fertility with a surgery colloquially referred to as “getting snipped,” he spends a lot of time agonizing over the physical impact. What rarely crosses his mind: the psychological blow sterility might deliver.
At least it didn’t cross my mind.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in my vasectomy consultation a few months ago that it hit me how little I knew about the procedure. Sure, I had debriefed my already snipped buddies, but the most they offered up were broad assurances along the lines of “It wasn’t as bad as I expected.” They left out the fact that my scrotum would be sliced and my vas deferens cut and soldered. Oh, and that the outcome is irreversible.
A vasectomy is, in fact, permanent birth control for men. It’s an opportunity for a guy to step up and take responsibility in family planning, said Jonathan Stack, documentary filmmaker and cofounder of World Vasectomy Day, celebrated — if you can use that word so boldly — on Nov. 7. Most forms of birth control are temporary and not 100 percent effective. And more often than not, the burden of control is placed on the woman, whether she gets an IUD or has to continuously take the pill. “I think there’s something very heroic and noble about a man saying, ‘Hey, I’ll take this one on,’” said Stack. “Vasectomies are all about choice. There is no medical reason to get one. You do it because it’s what you want to do, and that should feel empowering.”
It’s an interesting way to think about a procedure that ends a dude’s power to procreate. And I wish I had heard Stack’s pep talk before my vasectomy, because I struggled with letting go of the biological ability to father children, even though my wife and I had decided we were finished growing our family.
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Turns out, I’m not alone. Last year, Stack and urologist Doug Stein promoted the first ever World Vasectomy Day to help men and families work through the same thought process that was tripping me up. Stein, who has performed more than 33,000 vasectomies worldwide, said the decision’s degree of difficulty varies from person to person. “For the guy who planned on only having two children and now has four, a vasectomy is a pretty easy choice to make,” he said. “The men who struggle philosophically with the decision are the ones who should proceed more slowly.”
The surgery itself was pretty uneventful. In fact, I almost wished there was more fanfare — or even pain — involved, given the finality of the event. It’s like, “Hey, I’ll be sterile for the rest of my life, can I get a drumroll over here?” But no, it was just a mechanical, matter-of-fact sequence that lasted 10 minutes, tops.
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As I sat around my house in the days that followed, frozen peas in my lap, I slid into a nasty funk. Stein said that in his experience, most guys feel relief when it’s over, knowing that in a couple of months (once the leftover sperm are ejaculated or no longer viable) they can have worry-free sex with their partners. He said some guys might feel regret at some point if they weren’t completely sure of their decision. But even though I was sure, I needed to mourn my loss.
"I think that sense of loss you felt is a healthy part of the process," Stack assured me. "World Vasectomy Day is an opportunity for those kinds of conversations to happen collectively as well as individually. It’s easier to do these things when you feel like it’s serving a greater purpose.”
He’s right. And now that I’m fully healed and feeling like my old self again, I can see the greater purpose. Our family is complete, so my wife should not have to worry about the physical and emotional stress of getting pregnant again. She deserved to be liberated from that concern, and by making this choice, I have put her mind at ease. That makes me feel like more of a man than ever.
Does Getting Snipped Affect Sex Drive?
One of the biggest fears that persist about having a vasectomy is that it will negatively impact a guy’s libido — or worse, his ability to perform in the bedroom. It doesn’t. At all. Not only can a man still get aroused, he can still ejaculate during sex; the semen looks and feels the same — it just doesn’t contain sperm. Unlike hysterectomies in women, which can cause hormonal imbalances that dampen sex drive, vasectomies do not mess with testosterone levels in men.