By Scott Blair

The day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade, Google saw a peak in searches for the word vasectomy. Following that, Dr. Michael Hagg, a urologist at Main Line Health in Pennsylvania, said, “I’ve had an influx of consults for vasectomy over the past probably four to six weeks.”

“He told me that he and his wife had discussed getting [a] vasectomy prior to the decision, but once it did [get overturned], it kind of prompted them to make the appointment sooner,” Dr. Hagg said about one of his patients, Thomas Figueroa, who’s 27 years old.

“I’ve always thought about this decision. The Supreme Court did push me to finally do it,” Figueroa said.

Is a Vasectomy Safe & Effective?

Local anesthesia is used, and the incision is tiny. You only need a couple of stitches after, and the healing process is anywhere from two weeks to two days. Therefore a vasectomy is a minimally invasive and low-risk procedure. However, as with any surgery, there are risks.

According to the National Institute of Health, Vasectomies are safe and highly effective, but these are possible side effects:

  • Bleeding Under the Skin
  • Infection
  • Lump in the Scrotum
  • Vasectomy Failure
  • Regret

Bleeding under the skin or hematoma can occur and lead to pain and swelling. Infections are possible, resulting in a fever. If you experience scrotal redness or swelling after surgery, that could mean you have an infection. Granuloma, or a lump in the scrotum, is caused by sperm leaking out into the tissue. This is called post-vasectomy pain syndrome.

Out of 1,000 vasectomies, 11 will likely fail. However, half of the failures occur within 12 weeks of the procedure. Most men don’t regret getting a vasectomy, but it does happen. Males under 30 are most likely to regret the decision.

Puneet Masson, MD, Director of the Male Fertility Program at Penn Medicine, said male sterilization with vasectomies is the 4th most common or popular form of birth control in the United States. A vasectomy takes 10 minutes and is 99% effective. Only one or two out of 1,000 women get pregnant within a year of their partner’s vasectomy. It’s second only to abstinence as the best form of birth control.

Can a Vasectomy Be Reversed?

The Mayo Clinic says almost all vasectomies can be reversed, although vasectomy reversal doesn’t guarantee you can have children. Plus, the longer it’s been since your original procedure, the less chance you have of a successful reversal.

The surgery rarely has complications, but possible complications include bleeding inside the scrotum, infection at the surgery site, and chronic pain.

Black Males & the Vasectomy Stigma

There are several myths in the black community about vasectomies. Myths such as:

  • Beliefs associating vasectomy with de-masculinization, framing it in terms of castration
  • Notions that vasectomy causes painful sex, weight gain, and obesity among men and makes men develop female features, such as breasts
  • Fears that it would reduce their sex drive and sexual satisfaction

When interviewed by Anissa Durham of Word in Black, Justin Harlow said he pondered whether or not to get a vasectomy for quite some time. He was determined to put his fear aside and educate himself on the procedure. But it didn’t happen overnight.

Harlow said, “I am the classic cliché. I don’t know if it’s a Black man thing or a man thing, in your mind, there’s this whole stigma around vasectomies.” 

He and his wife have three young children, and both decided they didn’t want to have any more. While there are several birth control options out there, most have adverse effects. His wife could have had a tubal ligation or her “tubes tied,” but Harlow didn’t like the idea of her going through that kind of procedure. He said, “Do I send Kiara in for some major surgery, and she’s already had three babies? And I just started looking at it as, like, a selfish thing. It’s very selfish when you think about it.”

He continued by saying, “We were raised to be these prideful guys … that it’s unmasculine, that no one should be messing with your manhood,” he says. “This was, for me, as a Black man married to a Black woman, just a way to support my wife. I could argue this is a very masculine thing to do.”

He decided to talk to some of his friends who are black. A few of them had already had a vasectomy, and in August of 2021, Harlow decided to do the same. He’s had zero complications since the vasectomy and tells other black men the procedure is worth it.

*As always, consult your physician before making any health decisions.