Health Column: A vasectomy is simple, safe, effective |

Health Column: A vasectomy is simple, safe, effective

Phil Mohler, M.D.
Free Press Health Columnist

Jokes, raised eyebrows and snickers are common, but vasectomy or severing the tubes (vas deferens) through which sperm travel from the testicles to the penis is a great method of birth control.

Vasectomies are done in a family doctor’s or urologist’s office using a local anesthetic. It is a simple, safe procedure that takes 20-30 minutes and is often performed without an incision, using a tool that punctures the skin of the scrotum. The physician’s fee for a vasectomy is significantly less than that of a tubal ligation, and there are no operating room or anesthesia costs.

Twenty years ago, there was a myth that vasectomy was associated with an increased risk of multiple sclerosis and prostate cancer. Subsequent studies have shown that vasectomy is not associated with any significant illness. Major side effects from vasectomy are rare. Some bruising and swelling of the scrotum are common, but significant bleeding or infection are unusual.

One caveat! Vasectomy does not result in immediate sterility. Downstream sperm may persist for several weeks. The hardest part of doing vasectomies for me was to get men to return for a semen analysis to be sure that we had gotten the job done.

A study among Australian men in 2010 showed that those who had undergone vasectomy had no increase in sexual difficulties (decrease in desire or performance) and were actually more likely to be satisfied with their relationship (less anxiety over unwanted pregnancy). Did I previously mention that 50 percent of the pregnancies in this country are unplanned?

How effective is vasectomy? The National Institute of Health indicates that the pregnancy rate for vasectomy is 15-20 out of 10,000 couples per year, while it is 1,400 pregnancies for 10,000 couples per year for condoms, and 500/10,000 couples per year for birth control pills.

My Experience: A big bag of frozen peas makes the first evening go great!

GJ Free Press health columnist Dr. Mohler has practiced family medicine in Grand Junction for 39 years. He has a particular interest in pharmaceutical education. Phil works part-time for both Primary Care Partners and Rocky Mountain Health Plans. Email him at

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