Considering a Vasectomy? How to Know If the Time Is Right — and What to Expect

Weighing the pros and cons
Man thinking about a vasectomy while lounging in bed next to girlfriend

Let’s be honest: “Getting snipped” isn’t any man’s idea of a good time. But there are definitely good reasons to consider a vasectomy.

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Maybe you’re certain you’ll never want kids. Maybe you’re already a dad, but you know your brood is big enough. A vasectomy is a safe, simple procedure to tie off the vas deferens and prevent sperm from being released during ejaculation.

When’s the right time to make the appointment and stock up on frozen peas (they make great ice packs)?

It’s pretty straightforward, says urologist Sarah Vij, MD: “The right time is when you’re sure that you do not want to have more children. It’s considered a permanent form of sterilization, so if you’re not totally sure, it’s not the right option.”

How old should you be to get a vasectomy? (Can you be too young?)

About 50 million men in the United States have had vasectomies. That translates to about 5% of all married couples of reproductive age.

But what if you’re still in your 20s — couldn’t you change your mind? Well, maybe, but that doesn’t mean you’re too young, Dr. Vij says. It’s also possible to change your mind when you’re in your 30s, your 40s, or beyond.

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It isn’t so much the number of candles on your cake that matters, but whether you’ve given it serious thought and are sure you don’t want to father children. “If you’re confident, it’s responsible to take that step to avoid an unintended pregnancy,” she says.

What about vasectomy reversals?

Technically, you can have surgery to put your plumbing back together. Reversals are effective most of the time, Dr. Vij says, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll work.

Something else to consider: Vasectomies are fairly inexpensive, but vasectomy reversals can be pricey. And they’re not usually covered by insurance.  

When to press pause on your vasectomy plans

While vasectomies can be a good option for men of any age, there are times you might want to hit the brakes. If you have any hesitation about whether you might want a child someday, that’s a good reason to stick to other forms of birth control for the time being.

New dads, too, might want to press pause. “If you’re in the thick of the postpartum period, it’s a really stressful time,” Dr. Vij says. “It’s often a good idea to wait before making the decision.”

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When to charge ahead

If you’re hesitating because you’re worried about the procedure itself, that’s probably not a reason to put it off.

A vasectomy takes about 10 minutes and is done in a doctor’s office. The procedure is painless, and most men say it’s a much smaller deal than they’d expected, Dr. Vij says. (In fact, many men take advantage of the 24- to 72-hour recovery period to catch up on their favorite sports.)

And after you’ve healed, the real fun begins. Once you’re cleared by your doctor (Dr. Vij says most doctors will do a semen test 8 to 12 weeks after the procedure to make sure the vasectomy was successful), you can enjoy your (ahem) leisure time without fear of an unwanted pregnancy. “No form of birth control is 100% effective, but a vasectomy is about as close as you can get,” she emphasizes.

Plus, you’ll never have to think about it again. “Unlike condoms or birth control pills, a vasectomy is one-stop shopping,” she adds. “The only downside is that it’s permanent.”

But if onesies and diapers aren’t in your life plan? “Permanent” is also the upside.

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