Non-Surgical Alternatives to Vasectomy Reversal
What is a Vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a permanent form of birth control that is available to all men who no longer want to be able to have children. Nearly 500 000 men every year in the United States opt to have a vasectomy, for a wide variety of reasons. Performed surgically, a vasectomy involves making a cut in the vas deferens, the tubes inside the penis responsible for carrying sperm into a man’s semen. Once you have had a vasectomy, you will still produce semen, only it will not contain any sperm, thus removing the possibility of fertilizing a woman’s egg.
What is a Vasectomy Reversal?
A growing percentage of men are now seeking to have their vasectomies reversed. Due to changing circumstances, many men find that they now wish to have children and would like to be able to produce their own sperm. Advances in medical technology have allowed for a number of new vasectomy reversal procedures, many of which have high success rates. The vasosostomy and the vasoepididymostomy are the two most common types of vasectomy reversal surgery.
All vasectomy reversals must be surgically performed by an experienced microsurgeon. In order to obtain successful results, powerful surgical microscopes are used to locate the vas deferens and reconnect them. Vasectomy reversal surgeries can last any where between 2 and 5 hours, depending upon the condition of the vas deferens and the complexity of reattachment. Depending upon your fertility history and the length of time since you had your vasectomy, reversal procedures have varying success rates – usually around 50% of patients are able to have children again.
But there are drawbacks to this surgery. Vasectomy reversal is quite expensive and requires patience and resolve in the recovery process. You must wear a support for up to six weeks following the surgery and cannot have sex for four weeks. Possible complications include infection, testicular atrophy, and blood clots. Up to 14% of men who have the surgery actually experience a decrease in the amount of sperm they are able to produce, and some may actually produce no sperm. Failure rates can run as high as 40% in certain procedures.
Alternatives to Vasectomy Reversal
The idea of going through a long, complex surgery may not appeal to all men who wish to have children again. Even if you have had a vasectomy, there are ways to father children without resorting to surgical procedures. If you are considering having a vasectomy or a vasectomy reversal, examine your alternatives to be sure that you are choosing the best option for you. There are ways to extract sperm from your body without having to undergo major surgery, and many of these procedures are also associated with good success rates.
Sperm Banking: Sperm banking is one of the best options available for those men considering having a vasectomy. When you decide to have a vasectomy you will usually be given the option of having some sperm retrieved so that you can store it for use later on. Sperm from your testicles or vas deferens can be removed by your doctor and stored in a special facility at a relatively low cost. This will provide you with the option of pursuing in vitro fertilization (IVF) if you do decide to have a baby in the future. Of course, if you have already had a vasectomy, it is too late to pursue banking your own sperm.
Therapeutic Donor Insemination: Therapeutic donor insemination involves choosing an outside sperm donor to help you and your partner conceive a child. If you are open to the idea of having a child without using your own sperm, this may be one of the easiest and most effective procedures available. A wide variety of donor sperm is available to couples wishing to conceive. Once you have chosen your sperm, your partner will be artificially inseminated. This involves putting the donated sperm into her cervix or uterus during ovulation. Hopefully, this sperm will fertilize an egg and create an embryo. Success rates vary between 5% and 25%.
Sperm Aspiration: If you wish to have a child with your own sperm but don’t want to have a vasectomy reversal, your doctor can remove sperm from your body through a process called sperm aspiration. This process involves retrieving sperm from either your epididymis or testes to be used in IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
There are two main types of non-surgical sperm aspiration. Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) involves retrieving sperm from your epididymis, located just above your vas deferens. A fine needle is inserted through the skin into the epididymis, and some liquid is removed. This liquid should contain sperm. Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) involves using a biopsy needle to remove small pieces of tissue from your testes. This tissue contains small amounts of sperm, which can be extracted and used in IVF or ICSI.
Non-surgical sperm aspiration generally involves few side effects and no complications. Rarely, infections can occur at the injection or biopsy site. If your partner is willing to undergo IVF or ICSI, sperm aspiration may be a good alternative to a vasectomy reversal. However, IVF and ICSI have lower success rates than the vasectomy reversal.
Typically, between 20% and 35% of patients conceive a child using these methods. These procedures generally have to be performed on numerous occasions, because few women become pregnant after only one attempt. Unfortunately, this entails a lot of time and effort, as well as extremely high costs.
If you have had a vasectomy in the past, are thinking about having one, or are interested in getting a reverse vasectomy, investigate all of you options before you sign up.