Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Goodbye Chaps: Why I Decided to Have a Vasectomy
When I come back from my current business trip I am booked in to have a vasectomy. At this point, if you’re of tender sensibilities I suggest you stop reading.
I have, in fact, been meaning to have a vasectomy since the birth of our last son, Bo. My wife became very seriously ill about a week after giving birth to Bo and I nearly lost her. Thankfully she’s still about but it started me thinking.
We have 3 children, each of which is amazing in their own way. I was 41 then and I figured that that’s probably as old as I wanted to be with new children. Not because of how hard babies are (though it does get tougher than when you’re in your 30s) but because of how old I’ll be when my children are adults but still need a Dad around. It’s all well and good to have a baby at 50 but that person will still need you when they’re 30 and you’re 80. Another reason we figured we were done was because our family feels complete with 5 . Before Bo came, my wife and I both felt another child would be perfect, now we feel like the family is right just as it is. Finally, I want to be able to spend enough time with all of my children and with a job that I love but that requires long hours, I felt that I would not be able to devote adequate time to more than 3 kids and that didn’t sit right with me. With those factors in mind, even if my marriage ended (which I hope it doesn’t) it’s no more kids for me.
So, why a vasectomy then? There are other contraceptive methods. Well, I don’t really like condoms and they’re not 100% reliable, so it’s not a great long term solution I don’t think. There’s both the male and the female pill but neither of these are really attractive as I don’t like to have to take any more medication than I do already and I don’t like the idea of chemically changing the hormonal balance in my body. If it’s not something I would do, likewise it’s not something I am going to ask my wife to do. Other options such as an IUD don’t sound appealing either. So I could ask my wife to get surgery or I could get surgery. I chose the latter for 2 reasons, first, after 3 caesarian sections I feel like she’s done her bit for the family on that score, second my reading indicated that a male vasectomy is a quick and easy process with relatively minimal recovery. I’ve also had friends who have done it and found that the experience is pretty positive.
I had been told that you had to go and see the doctor a number of times before they would refer you for an NHS vasectomy (it’s usually not available on private insurance as it doesn’t usually cover contraception) and so it had remained on my ‘list of stuff to sort out’ far longer than it should have. In the end I was visiting a friend after the birth of his daughter and he mentioned getting one and it dawned on me that I’d been meaning to get round to getting the snip for 18 months. I went back home and called the Doc straight away. I figured it was time to get the ball rolling, even if it meant a lot of appointments. I had a phone interview with the doctor the day after Boxing Day and I was surprised at how quickly it was all organised. He went through my reasons for wanting the procedure as outlined above and referred me to a local clinic. The clinic got in touch the next week and when I rang back I was offered an appointment in the second week of January. I couldn’t take that as I would be in India on business but I arranged it for the week of my return.
There are certain factors that I believe smoothed the way for me. Firstly, my age, being over 40 the Dr knew I was unlikely to change my mind in short order. Secondly I have 3 children already and so a vasectomy would not deny me the experience of being a father. All this is important as although a vasectomy can be reversed, it’s not always successful and it cannot be done under the NHS.
So the organisational side was easy. I’m happy to go forward so I will have my consultation in the morning and the surgery later that day. I didn’t feel there was any value in doing it on separate days as it prolongs the whole process and, moreover, the mechanics are not going to be pleasant so the less time I have to mull it over, the better.
So, what about fears then? First up, the operation itself, it’s done under local anaesthetic which is going to mean a needle in the scrotum and the idea makes my skin crawl. That being said a general anaesthetic hikes up the danger level of the operation and so it’s better to just grit my teeth and bear it. I’m expecting a relatively painful recovery period but, if I behave myself, I don’t expect any long term problems. I do recall being surprised at how long it took me to feel better after my hernia, so my expectations are set accordingly.
There is a group of symptoms that are gathered together under the umbrella term ‘post vasectomy pain syndrome’ and I’ve found it difficult to get a grip on how serious this is. Some studies cite a near 15% incidence of this but at 7 months after the op. I know that at 7 months after my hernia op I was regularly experiencing pain. Now, at 18 months it’s very rare, but it does still happen. Other studies indicate this is much less likely at around 4%. As it’s a bunch of symptoms as opposed to a specific medical condition, the treatment varies according to the symptoms. My approach here is to see how things pan out and, if there is pain, to manage that if and when it comes. It doesn’t change my decision. I am also concerned about loss of sex drive though, again, reports here are not consistent. I would hope that after 20+ years with my wife my desire for intimacy is based on more than simple biology.
So, to summarise, I believe that given the available contraceptive options a vasectomy is the best bang for buck (pun definitely intended). There are risks but there are risks with any surgical procedure. I do feel a degree of concern about the potential after effects but they are far less likely or severe than the potential effects of pregnancy. It seems like the risks my wife undertook so we could have 3 kids far outweigh those I’ll take so that we don’t have 4.
Plus, I’ll get tea and sympathy for a week or so and even at 42 I’m not averse to playing the wounded soldier from time to time.