Taking The Anxiety Away From Vasectomies
SEATTLE - When a couple decides it's time for permanent birth control, nearly twice as many women get sterilized, even though the procedure is far more simple and less expensive for men.
One reason is most men fear having a vasectomy. Yet, one Seattle doctor offers a no scalpel, no needle, no stitches procedure he hopes will reduce the fear.
A man and woman walk hand in hand toward a non-descript office in the Hawthorne Hills neighborhood of Seattle. The woman, Karinne, asks her husband Steve if he's nervous.
"You're talking about me? The guy that will ski down a 45-degree chute on a death ice day? Hell, yes I'm nervous," he said.
Karinne opens the door to the office, where lettering on the door reads "The Vasectomy Clinic."
Inside the office, Steve and Karinne greet the clinic's doctor, Charles "Chic" Wilson. Though he doesn't show any sign of nervousness, Steve is just minutes from something that most men fear.
Married less than a year, Steve, 45, and Karinne, 36, don't want to have children. For them, permanent birth control is the answer. But, unlike most couples, Steve will be the one who will have the procedure.
The couple is ushered into a small exam room. First Steve gets his blood pressure checked. Then, Dr. Wilson comes in and talks to the couple about 15 minutes reviewing the procedure.
After Steve signs the consent form, Dr. Wilson has him sit in a chair that is lowered slowly into a horizontal position. The week before, Dr. Wilson performed his 5,000th vasectomy using an approach that he believes makes it easier and more comfortable for men.
"I think because fear and apprehension are the main barriers to vasectomy," says Dr. Wilson, "having no scalpel, no needle, no stitches -- those things are appealing to men who are trying to make a decision can they actually go through with it. And yes they can."
Permanent birth control in men and women differs greatly. For men, it's a simple office procedure that takes about 15 minutes and costs about $600. For women, a tubal ligation costs 5 to 10 times as much, and is more invasive and risky requiring general anesthesia and a hospital stay.
Yet, nearly twice as many couples choose a tubal ligation over a vasectomy.
For Steve and Karinne, the decision was easy.
"My doctor asked me if we were going to have children and I told him that we weren't," Karinne said. "And I guess I volunteered him to do something permanent about it rather than me."
Steve says, "It's just easier for me to get those things taken care of know what I mean."
Between work, travel, skiing and rafting, Steve & Karinne lead an active life. "And I enjoy my time with my wife and I'm too selfish to spend it with her and a kid," says Steve. "So, I'm the only child she needs anyway."
Back in Dr. Wilson's office, the procedure begins with a no-needle anesthetic.
Knowing the thought of needles "down there" scares most men, Dr. Wilson came up with a way to get rid of the needle.
"After a lot of effort trying to figure out how to do that, I started using this hypo-spray device to administer the anesthetic," Dr. Wilson said. "And that gives us the ability to do the vasectomy entirely without a needle."
Seconds after receiving the anesthetic, Steve is numb. Dr. Wilson then makes a tiny 1/8th-inch puncture in Steve's scrotum. Through that tiny hole, he pulls out the tiny Vas Deferns tubes which carry the sperm, cuts them, seals them, and then puts them back.
In Steve's case, the entire procedure takes eight minutes.
"That's it," says Dr. Wilson. "You're done."
Steve breathes a sigh of relief and says, "Ahh, one less president."
Karinne sits next to Steve during the entire procedure. "As I watched him do it, and I was surprised I could watch him do it, it wasn't bad at all," says Karinne.
Steve says, "The only bad side of this is the seven days I'm not going to be able to do nothing."
Though Steve can return to pretty much normal activity by the next morning, he won't be able to lift objects more than 40 pounds, play sports, or have sex for a week.
Fifteen minutes after the procedure, Steve is cleared to go home.
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