When my husband had his vasectomy a few months ago, I had no idea what to do or how to support him, and I didn’t even know who to ask. We were the first of our friends to have kids, and now that we have all the kids we need, we were the first to even think about making permanent reproductive changes.
Oops, we did it again, and again…
When we got surprise-pregnant with our third baby (my husband had just returned from his last deployment and was finally on shore duty, so was it really a surprise???) my husband started talking about getting a vasectomy.
What if something happened to that baby during pregnancy or birth? Maybe I would want to try again?? But I had a very surreal moment during labor where I knew I never wanted to go through that again. Three natural births with no pain medication was a sufficient badge of honor, and I was just fine moving on to raising kids and not having any more.
I’m a hormonal rage monster on birth control and clearly condoms aren’t foolproof, but as a mama with two toddlers, a baby, and no family nearby, a tubal litigation (a woman’s form of permanent reproductive changes) was out of the question. So we decided that a vasectomy was our best option.
But my husband hesitated and waited and waited too long. The day after we found out super surprise baby #4 was coming, he called the doc and finally made an appointment.
Tips and Tricks to Handle “The Snip”
According to the internet, my friends, and my experience, here’s what you need to know.
**Before you continue, you should read this blog post that outlines exactly what happens during a vasectomy from a wife who watched it first-hand.
* Still wondering if a vasectomy is a good fit for your birth control needs? This might help.
Give Him ALL the Sympathy and Compassion You Can Muster
Yes, a vasectomy cannot even compare to the pain of childbirth, but ladies, it’s not a competition. You have to remember that the worst pain a man can feel is getting punched in the balls. Men are hardwired to protect those little sperm sacs at any cost. So he may be really nervous in the days leading up to the procedure. Just smile and nod and offer encouraging words.
The actual vasectomy cuts a tiny hole in the scrotum and the doctor pulls the vas deferens (the channel that carries the sperm into the semen) out to cut it and then cauterize each end. The act of pulling on this is akin to the hardest hit he could ever feel. And he has to go through it twice, once on each side. If you’ve ever seen a man get kicked in the balls, you know it renders him speechless, in the fetal position, crying in pain. And that pain and sore feeling lasts for a long time.
So, please remember that there is no comparison between a vasectomy and childbirth, and that it is not a competition. You may be thinking “Buck up buttercup!” But for the love of your marriage and relationship, please don’t say that. No matter what he says, make a promise to yourself that you will only say encouraging things for the 48 hours afterwards. The old adage applies perfectly: “Don’t kick a man when he’s down!”
Make Him Rest
As with any surgery, rest is the key to recovery. So, yes, he should bounce back pretty quickly but only if he rests! Give him two days of non-stop Xbox (or his equivalent lazy vice) and no responsibilities. After that, he can slowly move around and help out as he feels able. But be sure to remind him not to overdo it! I’ve heard horror stories of men who’ve felt good so they do too much too fast and get nasty complications that take them out for weeks. My husband said it wasn’t as painful as he thought, but it felt like our kids used his balls as trampolines for 5 hours on end.
Needless to say, he was still very sore for quite a few days, and the incision sites were sore too. But taking those first two days to rest and not lift a finger and the following three days on “super light dad duty” made all the difference in his speedy recovery.
Be sure that someone is around to help him for the first 24 hours, too. He’ll need someone to get his food, bring him beer, and help him hobble around when he needs to get up. My husband had some extra bleeding, and needed help changing out his gauze. And then all the pulling around the incision site made him extremely nauseous, and he needed some extra help then, too. I was able to take care of him and the kids fairly easily for those first two days, but I am very glad I cancelled my plans and was home with him those first 24 hours.
Buy All the Frozen Peas
“Peas Sir, I want some more!” All jokes and quotes aside, the best way to expedite healing is to have him ice his balls repeatedly the first 48 hours. And better than ice is frozen peas. A bag of peas has more flexibility to wrap around any shape easily and they don’t melt or get mushy when they start to thaw. Set a timer for 30 minutes on and 30 minutes off. I bought three bags and it was sufficient to rotate through. Just be prepared for lots of swelling and odd color bruising. But the faster you start the icy rotation and the more consistent you are over those first two days, the less swelling there will be.
After seeing my husband sitting on the couch with a bag of peas on his crotch, my preschooler responded, “Dad, you should cook those first. Mom says we can’t eat frozen food.” Well, he’s not wrong!
Be Modest and Courteous
The doc will tell you to abstain from sex for a week, and that’s for a very good reason. Your man may be tempted to make sure everything still works, but assure him it will… in a week. I made the mistake of running through the house half naked the day after the procedure (in my defense I was getting dressed and heard the toddler crying in pain). Let’s just say that a heightened libido can be painful. Yes, it’s an ego boost to know that my bloated, sagging, pregnant body still brings “excitement” to our marriage, but there’s a time and place for that. The seven days following a vasectomy is NOT the time. So, do your man a favor; wear a parka and shower with the door closed.
Get a Babysitter
Better yet, have family stay with you for a few days to help with the kids. But whatever you do, don’t bring the kids to the appointment. My husband said it would only be 10 minutes, but I had to be in the waiting room as proof he wouldn’t drive himself home. I don’t have a sitter available in the daytime, so all the kids came, too. But 10 minutes turned into 20, into 30, into 40 minutes… He was back there for a total of an hour! And that’s not to mention the time waiting for him to get called back! Turns out the doctor was running late and it takes about 20 minutes to “prep the area.” So, yes, the actual procedure is done in less than 10 minutes, but you’ll be there for a lot longer. And I wish I could have been there with my husband to support his anxious mind as he waited in that room for over 30 minutes with his junk awkwardly hanging out through a sheet waiting for the doctor.
Do Not Schedule a Vasectomy Newly Postpartum
Birth rips you apart form the inside out, and you have to recover while keeping a tiny human alive who wants nothing to do with the outside world.
Do yourself a favor and let your baby daddy support you during that time and schedule his vasectomy during a time when you can support him.
In my personal opinion, pregnancy is a great time. You don’t yet have a tiny human to take care of, but there’s also no risk of getting more pregnant during that 3-ish month window following a vasectomy when he’s still fertile. But it really just depends on when you know that you’re done having kids. Please just plan a time when he can feel comfortable to really rest, when you don’t need his help.
DO NOT Miss the Follow-Up Appointment
It takes on average 15-20 ejaculations to clear out any remaining sperm from the vas deferens, and the follow-up appointment checks to make sure that there are no sperm in the sample that your man must provide. Plus, sometimes the vas deferens can even grow back together rendering the vasectomy unsuccessful. Odds are that if you’re seeking “the snip,” then you’re serious about not having any more kids. The stories you hear about people getting pregnant after vasectomies are usually the ones who skip this step. Don’t be like them. Follow-up three months later!