A vasectomy is a simple, safe and effective surgical procedure to sterilize a man. It does not affect a man’s ability to have erections or orgasms, and doesn’t visibly change semen. But because it should be considered irreversible, a vasectomy is a serious step. Both partners should understand all the facts and share in the decision. You may also consider having a sperm bank freeze sperm collected before your vasectomy and store it in case you want a child in the future. However, achieving pregnancy with stored sperm can be expensive and uncertain.
How it works:
In a vasectomy, your physician cuts the two vas deferens to prevent sperm from traveling from the testes to the penis. This is the only change in the reproductive system. The testes still produce sperm, but since the sperm have nowhere to go, they die and are absorbed by your body. Your prostate and seminal vesicles still produce fluids, so your semen doesn’t look or feel different.
There is no conclusive evidence that vasectomy causes health problems. Hormone levels remain the same, so your hair distribution, the pitch of your voice and your sexual drive are unchanged. Also, sterilization will not affect your ability to have erections or orgasms, and doesn’t visibly change your semen.
Note, however, that having a vasectomy does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases.
How it is performed:
A vasectomy is an outpatient procedure that takes about 30 minutes. The patient is usually awake through the procedure, though he will be administered a local anesthetic. The physician makes one or two tiny incisions in the skin of the scrotum, through which each of the vas deferens is lifted and a section removed. You may feel a pulling sensation during this process. A suture is placed to separate the two ends and they are sealed by heat (cauterized). The incision may be closed with two or three stitches. In some cases a no-scalpel technique may be used
You may experience swollen, achy testicles for a week or so after the procedure. You may also notice some bruising in the scrotum. Physicians recommend that you lie down for six to eight hours after the procedure and keep an ice pack on the incision.
In the five days after surgery, patients should avoid heavy lifting, exercise or sexual intercourse. You may notice a small, bloody discharge from the incision site, but this is normal.
Remember that usually it takes a few months before sterility is complete, and 15 to 20 ejaculations are required to clear viable sperm from the reproductive system. You should use birth control until your physician determines you are completely sterile.
Possible risks and complications:
No surgery is completely free of possible complications. The following complications might occur during the first few days after your surgery:
- Hematoma: Though rare, a small blood vessel may leak in the scrotum, forming a clot. A small clot typically dissolves with time, but a larger one may require the scrotum be reopened and drained.
- Infection: Some signs of infection are fever, chills, redness and swelling around the incision site.
Other complications may occur in the first few months after surgery. Among the most common:
- Sperm granuloma: Sometimes a lump, caused by leaking sperm, can form at the site where the vas deferens is tied off. Usually these small lumps cause no problems.
- Congestion: Because sperm are still produced after a vasectomy, they can build up in the epididymis (a duct behind the testes) and testicle. This may cause inflammation of the epididymis. This condition usually disappears without treatment, but can require antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.
- Recanalization: The return of fertility can occur if the cut ends of the vas deferens reconnect (recanalization), but this is rare.
Find a Physician:
To find a physician near you who performs vasectomies, visit our Locations page.
For more information on Vasectomy visit WebMD's Birth Control Health Center.