Announcer: Health information from experts supported by research. From University of Utah Health, this is thescoperadio.com.
Interviewer: A vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of birth control available. But there can naturally be some apprehension about a procedure that's been nicknamed "getting snipped." Joining us is urologist and male fertility specialist, Dr. Alex Pastuszak from University of Utah Health. And in order to help make this a little less scarier procedure, Doctor, I'd like you to give us an overview from preparation to procedure what to expect during and what recovery looks like. But first of all, let's talk about the procedure itself first. So where does it happen? Where does it all start?
What is a Vasectomy?
Dr. Pastuszak: Yeah, great question, Scott. So a vasectomy is one of the easiest procedures that anybody can undergo. We either do it in the clinic or in an operating room as a day surgery. So it's very simple.
Interviewer: All right, a very simple operation, which is fantastic. What exactly happens? Now, again, there's that getting snipped thing, which brings up visuals that I don't want to talk about. But it's nothing like that actually. It's very non-invasive.
How it Works
Dr. Pastuszak: No, exactly. I mean, we make one or two very small holes in your scrotal skin, and we just pluck your vas up. We'll clip it. We'll cut it, make sure the two ends don't come back together, and then we'll put it right back. All of that takes anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes.
Interviewer: So actually, probably preparing for and recovering from it takes a lot longer than the surgery. I mean . . .
Dr. Pastuszak: That's right.
Interviewer: You'll probably spend more time in the waiting room than you will actually getting the procedure done.
Dr. Pastuszak: Absolutely. I actually tell guys to budget about an hour, an hour and a half. And as I just told you, a minority of that is actually spent doing the procedure.
Pain & Anxiety Treatment Options
Interviewer: A lot of guys think it's kind of painful. So it does use local anesthetic, which is another advantage, right? You're not completely going under. It's just in the area, like if you went to the dentist, for example, and had a tooth extracted.
Dr. Pastuszak: That's right, and that's part of what makes it really safe. And a lot of guys come in very anxious about it. But we give them some medication to relax ahead of time. And like you already said, they get some local anesthetic. At the end of it, most of them ask me, "Why was I so anxious? I shouldn't have."
Interviewer: Yeah, I got you. And so I guess I'm a little anxious about the fact I'd be awake during this procedure, right? So should I be concerned about that, or how do you kind of alleviate, you know, that stress?
Dr. Pastuszak: Not at all. Well, usually, guys are actually pretty relaxed by that point.
Interviewer: From the medication. Okay.
Dr. Pastuszak: From the medication. But if they're not, please bring your iPad, bring your iPod, bring your iPhone or your Android, listen to some music. And, you know, you should expect to have very professional, courteous staff. They'll help laugh you up during the procedure, too, if you're anxious. We're good at that.
How to Prepare for Your Vasectomy
Interviewer: Okay. So the actual procedure, pretty painless. How do you prepare for the operation? So, you know, it only takes 15 minutes there. But what do I need to do before I come in?
Bring Tight Fitting Underwear
Dr. Pastuszak: Well, so you should bring some tight-fitting underwear or a jockstrap because you're going to leave with your scrotum supported and you're going to want to have that for the following week just to sort of prevent your boys from jumping up and down and causing any undue discomfort. You should come in with a clean genital area. We don't necessarily require that you shave. But if you'd like to, you can do that the day of, and we'll do any sort of trimming that we need to in the clinic. And you definitely need to bring someone to drive you home because, like I said, these relaxing medications will basically be like drinking two or three martinis.
Avoid Anticoagulants & Blood Thinners
Interviewer: Okay. So I got you. What about any sort of medications or anything like that? Do I need to worry about that before surgery?
Dr. Pastuszak: Yeah. We don't want you to be on any anticoagulants. So if you take aspirin regularly, I would stay off of it for about a week. If you take any other prescription medications that would thin your blood, you should also make sure that the doctor who prescribed that is okay that you're off that. But I would be off that for a week. And also fish oil. A lot of guys don't realize that fish oil is an anticoagulant. So I would not take that for at least a few days to a week before the procedure.
Interviewer: What about after the procedure?
Dr. Pastuszak: So these are going to be the best couple of days of your life because . . .
Interviewer: That's what I hear. Pick something to binge-watch.
Ice the Area
Dr. Pastuszak: Exactly. No, we don't want you being a complete couch potato, but you kind of have, hopefully, free reign in the house depending your partner. We do want you to rest. No real strenuous activity for three to five days. It's a great idea to buy a bag of frozen peas. In fact, some of my colleagues have branded ones that you put on your scrotum and keep them there not enough to freeze your boys, but just enough to kind of keep the discomfort at bay.
It really only takes a few days to heal from this. The discomfort is transitory. It'll be there for a few days to a week, but it's very minor, and you'll be back up and running before you know it. Point of note, you do want to get up and walk around while you're resting. You don't want to be a complete couch potato because you don't want blood clots in your legs. But sack out for a little bit.
How Quickly Can I get Back to Work?
Interviewer: All right. And how long until I'm back to work? So I get the procedure. I go home on, like, say, a Monday. When can I expect to go back to work?
Dr. Pastuszak: Yeah, that's a great question. So, basically, we don't want you lifting anything heavy for three to five days. So depending on what you do, just be aware of that, you know. If you're a guy at a factory who lifts 50-pound boxes every day, desk duty for a few days.
Interviewer: Got you.
Dr. Pastuszak: If you're, you know, a corporate executive, lawyer, doctor who just kind of pushes pencils or stands and does surgery, a day or two should be fine.
When Will I Know the Procedure was Effective?
Interviewer: All right. And when will the patient know that the procedure was actually effective because it's not immediate?
Dr. Pastuszak: Right. So it takes your body three months to make sperm. So we only know that that tube is occluded with no sperm coming out three or more months after your vasectomy. Also, keep in mind that you need to ejaculate 10 to 20 times to clear the pipes between when you have your vasectomy and when you go in three or more months later to get your semen analysis.
Interviewer: All right, and the great thing about that is this is one of the . . . it might be the only birth control procedure you can test for effectiveness, that's not somebody getting pregnant.
Dr. Pastuszak: That's right. That's right. And, you know, just talking about birth control, you should use a second form of birth control while you're waiting for that three-month period to be over.
Interviewer: Got you. Are there any risks I should be aware of?
Dr. Pastuszak: Yeah. So any procedure comes with risks, but the risks for vasectomy are very minor. And the three main risks include infection, bleeding, and pain in the testicles that is present after the vasectomy itself, or develops weeks to months after the vasectomy itself. All of those risks are less than 1% to 2% of all patients who have a vasectomy.
Interviewer: Wow. So that is about as safe as it gets when you're talking about a surgical procedure, it sounds like.
Dr. Pastuszak: Absolutely. If you want to have a great sex life without worrying about getting your partner pregnant, vasectomy is the way to go.
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