Bryan Cooper married his high school girlfriend when he was 18; seven years later, he was a father to twins. Following his wife’s difficult pregnancy, the two decided they were done with kids. He opted to get a vasectomy, since it’s less invasive than his wife having her tubes tied.
Then he learned his wife had been having an affair. She asked for a divorce. Cooper eventually found love again, and he now regrets the surgery. “At the age of 26, you don’t think you’re going to want more kids, and I was having twins,” he tells me. “But now I’m with a [new] woman I adore. She has a wonderful 4-year-old from her previous relationship. But we would never be able to have our own biological child together.”
Allen, a 42-year-old in Texas, believes he was duped into having a vasectomy by the promise of having more sex after the procedure. After two years of chronic pain and infrequent sex, Allen wants a vasectomy reversal and a divorce, which he believes will solve his problems.
It’s rare for men to regret a vasectomy, says Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger, Director of Urology at the New York Urology Specialists. He estimates about 5 percent of men seek reversals on their vasectomies, and the chronic pain cited by men like Allen is even rarer — “a less than 2 percent chance.”
So for the men who do sigh over the snip, what happened? We asked several to open up about their experiences. Here are their stories.
Kurt, 40, Nebraska — Vasectomy 11 Days Ago
You just can’t do sh*t with sore nuts.
I have no feelings of regret toward not having more kids. We have two — one boy, one girl — and that’s plenty. Don’t wanna be outnumbered, ya know? But depression — yes. No idea what brought it on, but it was there for a few days. Days four, five and six [post-vasectomy], I would get really down. [My thoughts were] like, Something is wrong with this swelling, and I’ll have to go back for more surgery/reversal, and I’m going to have pain for a long time. Probably won’t ever get to do the things I like anymore. I think it was a combination of being very active normally (lift four-plus days/week and ride bikes a lot) and having been told, “A few days and it’ll be normal,” screwed with my head. Anyone is happy to have a few days of not doing a damn thing. When your nuts hurt, and it’s been five days, and there’s a weird swollen lump in your sack… sh*t gets real.
I think the pain and the thought of needing to go back to repair or reverse the vasectomy was the cause of depressing thoughts. The best way I can think to explain it: You know that friend who’s a sad drunk? Everyone has one. It’s like I became that guy/girl, but wasn’t drinking. Just lying on the couch, wallowing in my own misery. Looking back, all of a week now, I realize the procedure is no biggie.
My best advice: Buy two jock straps. One to wear, one to wash. Plan on a full week to 10 days of downtime. During that time, get some good comedies to watch. If you’re an active person, be prepared for that time without exercise. It sucks.
So far, after day seven, I’ve been much better! I talked to a nurse from the urology clinic as well as getting reassurance on Reddit, all saying it’s normal and to keep resting/medicating (ibuprofen). Day eight, I had less pain and went out to dinner with friends. Day 11, today, I’m finally out of the jockstrap and in briefs. Still a little swollen in the one spot, but it’s better.
Another thing is your damn [pubic] hair grows back and pokes everything. It is better now, at day 13. For a few days, it would poke my d*ck and I’d have to rearrange the front room immediately. I considered shaving again, but you know, I’m not a porn star, so f*ck that effort.
Bryan Cooper, 38, Tennessee
I started dating my high school girlfriend in 1998, got married in 2003 and she gave birth to twins in 2005. It was a tough pregnancy and the doctor told her it would be a medical risk to get pregnant again.
The thing is, we found out she was pregnant during a pre-op pregnancy test. She was about to have a minor surgery. So, compounding the fact of a tough pregnancy, a C-section and the need to still have that other surgery, I decided a vasectomy would be safer than her getting her tubes tied.
Fast forward to after the operation, and I started feeling tired all the time. Zero sex drive. Gained 40 pounds. Went to the doctor and was told to go to a specialist to check my testosterone. Testosterone levels were crap. Started needing injections every two weeks.
Fast forward to now. My kids are 13. My wife asked for a divorce a little over two years ago after I found out about her year-long affair. She is currently living in our old house with my kids and the same guy. They are trying for a baby.
I’ve met someone awesome. We’ve been living together the past 18 months. She has a wonderful 4-year-old from her previous relationship. But we would never be able to have our own biological child together.
Basically, I rushed an important decision because I loved someone and thought that wouldn’t change. In the end, it took away my testosterone levels, my options to have another child with someone else, and I have been on testosterone shots for 10 or so years now. Just because you are technically old enough on paper to make a decision that will last the remainder of your life, doesn’t mean that you totally grasp those consequences. Emotions can make you do some crazy things, and trying to keep the person you love safe, even more so.
At the end of the day, I’m a believer of seeing what you have and not longing for what you don’t have. Accept the past but don’t let it take over the future. I regret that I rushed into a permanent decision by thinking I had it all figured out. Priorities of a 20-something are a lot different than that of a near-40-year-old. I regret that I don’t have the option of children with my new partner if that situation arises.
Reversals are expensive and not covered by my insurance plan. They also require a short hospital stay, if I remember correctly, and there is no guarantee of normal sperm production after being fixed for this long. [If the reversal is more than 10 years after the vasectomy, pregnancy rates go down to about 30 percent, according to MyHealth.Alberta.ca. —Ed.]
If you’re in your 20s and considering getting a vasectomy, wait. I didn’t want children at that time in my life. I thought I was still too young at 25, but [having kids] changed my life for the better and made me the person I am today. The pros seem to outweigh the cons at this point in life, but if you consider yourself emotionally mature enough to make that decision, why not be emotionally mature enough to realize time changes all? It will change your wants, desires, relationships and life goals.
Why take a permanent solution to a problem that can be fixed with safer sex methods such as condoms. You’ll need those anyway to protect against STIs. And if you ever change your mind, putting on or taking off a condom is a lot safer/easier than having or reversing a surgery.
Jeff, 34, Arizona — Vasectomy 14 Days Ago
I had it done the Thursday before last, and I’ve been super-depressed since. I have a lot going on in my life, but I have for the last year and a half. I have a 2-year-old son. I had to leave his mom because she was a meth addict who wouldn’t hold a job and stayed out all night.
The judge was adamant on allowing her to have custody despite her not complying to his orders of drug testing and rehabilitation. Finally, he had to award me custody, due to my son’s mom not complying.
I used student loans, maxed out credit cards and am paying off an SUV she got repossessed. So in reality, I didn’t need a vasectomy. A 34-year-old living with his stepdad and raising a toddler by himself is a very effective contraceptive.
It’s been almost 2 weeks since I got the vasectomy, so I can’t say I regret it really. Just feel weird. For a little over a week, I was more depressed than I was for years. I suppose it could be situational. There was a moment where I realized I couldn’t create life anymore. I’m pretty lonely as it is, but there are ways to reproduce if it came down to it.[When] our son turns 18, I’ll be three weeks from 50. I figured that’s the ideal time to have a kid. Not too young, not too old.
Oscar Lopez, 31, California — Vasectomy 10 Months Ago
I have two daughters and a son in heaven. We lost him during pregnancy. The decision for the vasectomy was based on one main factor: the health of my wife, Audrey. Figured she had gone through enough.
I work over as receptionist at a school district office. Currently studying at Cal State University Bakersfield through their extended campus program.
Our plan had always been to have two children, no matter the sex. We had experienced extreme complications and we lost our little boy, Ezekiel, on December 2, 2016. My wife’s health condition had taken a hit from surgeries and we developed PTSD from it. However, come fall 2017, we decided to try one final time after seeing our little girl Alyssa playing with a pretend sibling. The pregnancy was a success, and into the picture came Scarlett in March 2018 via C-section.
My vasectomy took place on February 7, 2018, a month before Scarlett was born. It went as a vasectomy goes, with one incision at each side, cut, cauterize and stitch up. Recovery went as expected, with some pain that would come and go. The use of good old bag of peas and the use of boxer briefs for support did the trick. I found that the compression shorts did not help as much, but boxer briefs doubled up did wonders! Spent most of the week just relaxing, playing Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Rocket League.
During the recovery, I had felt like it was the right thing to do. Knowing that in the future, we would have fun without worries was great. We had reached our personal family goals and would now just have fun.
For the moment, it was great.
Later on, the doubt kicked in.
Co-workers would commend the vasectomy, but others would follow up with, “Are you sure you did the right thing?” or, “What if, you know, you wanted more kids later on?” I had always responded confidently that it was the right call, but after so many questions, doubt found its way into me.
I began thinking, What have I done? Self-control would have been a viable option for birth control, and obviously there’s birth control pills. Then, whenever I went out, I caught myself gazing at large families, the ones with all the kids running around. Then the question hit me harder than ever: was the vasectomy the right thing to do? I Google-searched “vasectomy failure rates,” “vasectomy reversals” and “have a vasectomy ever reversed itself.”
Embarrassingly, one night I was checking out my own juice, wondering if it looked anything like before the vasectomy. Finally, I talked to the wifey about it, and apparently I was not alone. She too had the similar sensation: What if we wanted one more kid, just one? We talked again as we were watching our little ones play in the living room. Then we realized one thing — we were both bottling up our doubts. It was small questionings that we would answer ourselves but we kept it from each other.
Once we talked about it, the regret and questioning started to fade away. We talked about what it would be like if she in fact became pregnant again, but remembered what it would mean to her health. I once again came across the reason for my vasectomy: the chick sitting next to me, my wife.
At times I ask myself, will the self-doubt come back? Probably. I’m guessing it will occur when the “baby fever” happens, whenever we come across babies and all, but we achieved our family goals. Many reasons exist for vasectomies and they are all valid. I would say if you want it, go for it. Just remind yourself the reason behind it if you ever catch yourself doubting your decision. I will always remember why I had mine and will always be glad I did in the end.
William, 36, Kentucky — Vasectomy 20 Months Ago
It’s nuts that young men opt for a vasectomy so early. I know I was a much different person at 25 than I was at 30 and 35. I think even at 34, I may have been a little young for it, but considering I have two kids and I’m in a solid marriage, a vasectomy made sense. There was no way I could tolerate a newborn again. Plus, my kids were healthy.
By no means am I anti-vasectomy. All birth control has risks, so it’s up to the individual/couple to decide the best method for them. Vasectomy may be the best choice. However, I do believe that vasectomies are being sold as easy and safe, a “just man up!” procedure. It may be that for the majority of men, but for those where it’s not, it can be life-destroying. Negative outcomes and [research on them] are pretty hard to find.
I had some pain, but I thought it was just normal healing. It was limiting but tolerable. However, at about two to three weeks post-vasectomy, my pain wasn’t getting better and began to actually get worse.
I was having trouble working. I had to go on short-term disability and FMLA leave. I couldn’t do my job. At this point, I was collapsing mentally. I went back to the urologist, and he basically said, “Sorry, it could be chronic, it happens,” and blew me off. I went to my PCP, who also blew me off. At this point, I was severely depressed, anxious and could barely get out of bed. I kept thinking things like: What if I can’t ever play with my kids again, what if I can’t function as a husband/father, what if I can’t go back to work (I’m the sole provider), why would I do this to myself, I’m going to be worthless because of my decision to have a vasectomy and the subsequent pain. I cried a lot for those first three months. I spent 20 hours in bed for a month. It was the worst time of my life.
I believe a lot of the mental issues were directly related to the pain I was experiencing, and the hopelessness that ensued when I couldn’t work, let alone barely get out of bed. Also, having multiple physicians blowing me off and telling me it’s all in my head made it so much worse. I had no idea where to turn for help. Beyond that, I asked everyone I knew. I couldn’t find anyone dealing with this problem. Most, like me, had never even heard of a bad outcome following vasectomy. That was pretty isolating.
I am also of the opinion, that there was a significant shift in my hormone levels fueling this mental collapse. Pain is known to lower testosterone. Also, it’s not unreasonable to think that the pain was due to some physiological damage to my testicles which could have thrown off my hormone levels. However, there’s no way to ever prove that since my physicians weren’t willing to do anything at the time.
I eventually found the online PVPS [post-vasectomy pain syndrome] forum, and was able to figure out I wasn’t alone and that there were treatments. I found some excellent health care providers who were willing to help. I’ve tried basically every non-surgical, conservative treatment available, including numerous medications, pelvic floor physical therapy, pain management, nerve blocks, acupuncture, counseling, diet modification, etc. My pain has improved greatly since those first three months. I’m still experiencing pain daily, but it is rarely limiting. Most of the time it’s a localized dull ache in the scrotum, but sometimes it can involve my perineum and my pelvis. It usually runs about a 1–3 out of 10 on the pain scale. However, about twice a day, I experience a pain similar to being kicked in the nuts — including the nausea that comes with it. It only lasts about 10 minutes, but it can take my breath away, especially if I had sex the night before.
Oh yeah, my sex life has drastically declined. It just doesn’t feel the same. It’s still fun, but often isn’t worth the increased pain over the following days.
Mentally, I’m back to normal for the most part. I can easily become frustrated and angered now, but even that’s improving. I obviously regret having the procedure, but what’s done is done. Currently, I am contemplating having a vasectomy reversal. The reversal surgeons I have talked to state that there’s about a 70 percent chance for pain reduction. However, I am also aware that any surgical procedure has risks, and I fear it could make it worse. I can live my life with my current pain, and I’m hesitant to allow another scalpel anywhere near my balls again. Ha.
Finally, without the support of my wife, family and friends, it would have been impossible to pull myself out of the hell I was experiencing. In some ways, my issues are blessings because it made me realize that my life and the people in it are pretty awesome. For that, I’m grateful.