Vasectomy: Procedure, Side Effects, Effectiveness & Recovery

Letter blocks spelling the word "vasectomy" next to pair of scissors.

What is a Vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a minor operation that some men undergo in order to prevent pregnancy. During ejaculation, it blocks sperm from reaching the semen, and without sperm you can’t get a woman pregnant. After a vasectomy, you can still have an orgasm and ejaculate as normal.

A vasectomy (also called sterilization) can be performed in the office by your doctor. This is a routine procedure that only takes around half an hour. After the procedure, you’ll be able to go home.

The Vasectomy Procedure

A vasectomy is performed in basically two ways: a traditional vasectomy, which involves making an incision with a scalpel, and a no-scalpel procedure, where the operation is performed by making a small hole instead.

In both cases, your doctor will inject a local anesthetic to numb the area around your scrotum. You may also be offered medicine to help with any anxiety you might have.‌

Traditional Vasectomy

For this procedure the doctor will make cuts in your scrotum in order to access two tubes, known as vas deferens. Part of each tube may be removed by your doctor, leaving a small gap between ends. They may sear both ends, but each will be tied off with a stitch.

The doctor might be able reach both tubes with one cut, or may need to make another. You may receive stitches that gradually dissolve to close the incisions.

When both vas deferens have been cut, sperm will no longer be able to reach your semen.

No-Scalpel Vasectomy

There is also a procedure where the doctor does not use a scalpel. Your doctor will make a small puncture into the skin of your scrotum instead of an incision, then gently stretch the skin to see inside.

They will then perform the same procedure as with a traditional vasectomy to cut and seal the vas deferens. The puncture closes up immediately afterwards without any stitches being needed.

How Effective is a Vasectomy?

A vasectomy is 99.99% effective, with a failure rate of only 1 out of 10,000. However, the vas deferens tubes may become reattached in very rare instances. If this were to happen, your sperm would again be able to reach the semen, potentially leading to pregnancy.

Immediately following a vasectomy, sperm can still be released for a short period. Make sure you get the follow-up test so you will know for certain when you can quit using other forms of birth control.

Side effects

Vasectomies are safe and usually cause only mild side effects. Following the procedure, you may experience some discomfort and/or swelling around the scrotum, or even a little bleeding.

These symptoms are rarely serious but you should let your doctor know if you experience them. However, these side effects are fairly rare and not generally serious if they do occur.

Although complications are uncommon, they can occur. For instance, around 1-2% men experience persistent pain following a vasectomy.

There are a some other potential issues that could occur as well, but they are rare. These include:

  • An aching or discomfort in the testicle, or a feeling of pressure.
  • Sperm granuloma, which is a lump in the scrotum caused by inflammation due to sperm leaking from the cut end of the vas deferens.
  • Spermatocele, or spermatic cyst, is a cyst that develops in the epididymis tube that collects and transports sperm.
  • Hydrocele, or fluid that surrounds a testicle and causes swelling in the scrotum.

Is Prostate Cancer More Likely After a Vasectomy?

The findings from studies into this issue have been mixed. According to the American Cancer Society, some research suggests that vasectomies might make men more likely to develop prostate cancer. However, other research has not shown a link.

Results from more recent studies show that a vasectomy doesn’t increase a man’s chance of developing prostate cancer, and the concern for developing this condition should not be a factor in making the decision about having a vasectomy.

Benefits

A vasectomy is the most reliable form of birth control. It is also less likely to lead to complications compared to when a woman has her tubes tied (or tubal-ligation), and it’s not as expensive. Your insurance may cover a vasectomy as a one-time expense.

Additionally, there’s no cause for concern over your sex drive. This procedure will not affect your libido, erections, orgasm, testosterone levels, or any other aspect of your sex life.

What to Do Following a Vasectomy

After the procedure, take things slowly once you get home.

  • Take at least one day to rest. In less than one week, you should be fully recovered. Many men plan for recovery over the weekend, undergoing the procedure on a Friday and then going back to work on Monday.
  • You will likely experience some soreness a few days after. Ice packs can be used to reduce any pain and swelling. A jockstrap can also be worn for support.

What is the Cost of a Vasectomy?

In some states, insurance covers vasectomies. The cost of vasectomies for those who are paying out of pocket can vary from $500 to around $2,000. You might have to pay additional fees for your initial consultation.

How Soon Can You Have Sex After a Vasectomy?

You will want to wait about a week before having sex. Continue using birth control until your semen analysis shows that your semen is free from sperm. This test should be performed once you have ejaculated at least 10-20 times following a vasectomy.

If the testing reveals that your semen still contains sperm, the doctor schedule for you to return later to repeat the test. This is the only way to determine whether or not you are in the clear.

Will a Vasectomy Help Prevent STDs?

No. For the best protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, you will still need to use a condom.

Are Vasectomies Reversible?

Potentially. Reversing a vasectomy is difficult and sometimes doesn’t work. If you aren’t sure that you will want to have children, don’t go for the procedure.

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