A vasectomy is a procedure that makes a man permanently unable to get a woman pregnant. It involves cutting or blocking two tubes, called the vas deferens inside the scrotum. This prevents sperm from getting into the semen.
Path to improved health
Aside from the use of a condom, vasectomy may be the safest, most effective kind of birth control. Only about 1 or 2 out of 1,000 couples get pregnant the first year after a vasectomy.
A vasectomy is usually done in your doctor’s office or in an outpatient surgery center. There are several techniques doctors use for a vasectomy, involving small incisions or a “no scalpel” method. Each takes about 30 minutes. You’ll be awake during the procedure. Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic to numb your scrotum.
All vasectomy procedures involve removing a portion of the vas deferens. You may feel some tugging and pulling. Typically, the incisions (punctures) are so small that they heal without stitches.
How should I prepare for the operation?
On the day of the procedure, bring a jockstrap (an athletic supporter) with you, and make sure your genital area is clean. Your doctor may give you instructions on how to clean the area before you come in. Your doctor may suggest you bring someone to drive you home after surgery.
What can I expect after the operation?
You may have some pain, swelling, and bruising in the area where the surgery was performed. The bruises should slowly lighten and be gone in about two weeks. You should feel back to normal within a couple of weeks. Your doctor will give you instructions to follow after surgery. The instructions may include:
- Wear tight-fitting underwear or a jock strap to support your scrotum.
- Use an ice pack to help with the pain and swelling.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Limit yourself to light activity until you heal.
Is it okay to take medicine?
Don’t take aspirin, ibuprofen (brand names: Advil, Motrin, Nuprin), ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis), or naproxen (brand name: Aleve) for one week before the procedure. All of these can thin your blood and increase bleeding. Ibuprofen and naproxen can be taken after the procedure, but you shouldn’t take aspirin for another week. You can also try acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) to relieve pain.
When can I return to work?
If you have a desk job, expect to return to work after a couple of days. If you do physical labor, or walk or drive a lot, talk with your doctor about when you can return to work.
Will the vasectomy work right away?
No. You’ll need to ejaculate as many as 15 to 20 times or wait up to 3 months before the sperm will be cleared from both of the vas deferens. For that reason, keep using birth control. Your doctor will ask you to bring in samples of your ejaculation two or three months after the procedure. Only after you have a sperm-free sample will you be considered unable to get a woman pregnant.
Things to consider
Don’t have a vasectomy unless you’re absolutely sure you don’t want to have children in the future. You may need to wait to have a vasectomy, or may not be able to have one, if you have an infection on or around your genitals, or if you have a bleeding disorder.
Can a vasectomy be reversed?
Some vasectomies can be undone, or “reversed,” but the surgery is difficult, expensive, and must be performed in a hospital.
What are the risks of a vasectomy?
Problems that might occur after your vasectomy include bleeding, infection, and a usually mild inflammatory reaction to sperm that may have gotten loose during the surgery (called sperm granuloma).
Another risk is that the ends of the vas deferens may find a way to create a new path to one another. This doesn’t occur very often. But if it does, you could be able to get a woman pregnant.
What happens to the sperm?
Once sperm can’t get through the vas deferens, your testicles will begin making fewer sperm. Your body will absorb the sperm that are made.
Will a vasectomy affect my sex life?
After you have healed from the vasectomy, your sex life shouldn’t change at all. You’ll still ejaculate almost the same amount of semen as you did before, and you won’t notice a change in your sex drive.
When to see a doctor
Call you doctor if:
- You have a fever
- You have swelling that won’t go down or keeps getting worse
- You have trouble urinating
- You can feel a lump forming in your scrotum
You have bleeding from an incision that doesn’t stop even after you’ve pinched the site between 2 gauze pads for 10 minutes
Questions to ask your doctor
- What surgery technique will you use?
- What could go wrong with the procedure?
- Do you require consent from my spouse before the procedure?
- Are there any age requirements for having a vasectomy?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Male Sterilization
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: Vasectomy
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.