In the United States alone, over 500,000 vasectomies are performed a year. During a vasectomy, the surgeon delivers a local anesthetic injection into the scrotum. Once the area is numbed, the surgeon makes a small incision into the scrotum and to access the vas deferens – the tubes that carry sperm – to block them off. This may be achieved by making an incision into the tubes and tying or cauterizing the ends, removing and closing part of the tubes or by pinching and blocking the tubes with surgical clips. The incision into the scrotum is then sutured and sealed. The patient is awake for the duration of the procedure and should feel little to no pain or discomfort.
Vasectomy is a very common procedure, but many people have questions regarding the process, results and side effects of this surgery. While it may seem harrowing, vasectomy is a simple procedure that usually lasts only about 10-30 minutes. In fact, the most difficult part of undergoing a vasectomy, in many cases, is the decision to get one.
It is important to be informed when considering any medical procedure. Learn more about some of the common questions and misconceptions regarding vasectomy below.
Vasectomy is generally a relatively painless procedure.
Vasectomy should not be painful. Many patients report that the most uncomfortable part of the entire procedure is the anesthetic injection, during which most patients only feel a slight pinch as the area is numbed. Some patients report awareness of a slight tugging or pulling sensation while the surgeon handles the vas deferens tubes, but this discomfort is typically mild and should last only a few moments. The procedure itself is very short and typically only lasts up to about 30 minutes.
Patients may experience some soreness, swelling and bruising in the scrotum during their recovery, as is typical with any surgery. This discomfort should not be significant and can be alleviated with over the counter pain medication or icing the area. Patients can go home from the hospital the same day as their procedure and need only rest for a few days to a week before returning to work and normal activity.
Vasectomy can be a very effective form of birth control.
Vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of birth control available. Outside of abstinence, it is the most effective form of male birth control. Vasectomy is considered a “get-it-and-forget-it” kind of birth control: once your doctor has verified that your semen is free of sperm, no further action is required to prevent pregnancy during sex. There is no risk of user error or forgetting another form of protection. Vasectomies are designed to be permanent birth control that prevent pregnancy for the rest of the patient’s life. Without surgery, a vasectomy cannot be reversed on its own.
Vasectomy also does not affect the patient’s sex drive or hormone levels. This procedure does not, however, protect from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To prevent the spread of STDs, safe sex practices – such as using a condom or other barrier and getting regular testing – should be used even after a vasectomy.
Vasectomies can sometimes – but not always – be reversible.
While vasectomies can be reversed, the choice to undergo vasectomy should be made with the understanding that this is a permanent form of birth control. The reversal process, though possible, may not work for every patient in every case.
Vasectomy reversal is an option for some patients who wish to regain their fertility and for the small percentage (1-2%) of patients who experience long-term pain or discomfort after their initial vasectomy. Reversal can potentially restore fertility and alleviate chronic pain. There are a few different types of vasectomy reversal surgeries which vary based on several factors, such as the length of time passed between the vasectomy and the vasectomy reversal.
For patients who are not candidates for vasectomy reversal or who do not regain fertility after a reversal, there are still options to help achieve pregnancy, such as having sperm removed directly from the testicles and used for in-vitro fertilization.
Patients can have sex starting one week after vasectomy, but the procedure does not prevent pregnancy immediately.
Patients who undergo vasectomy can have sex starting one week after their procedure. However, it typically takes about three months for a vasectomy to be fully effective in preventing pregnancy. While the procedure blocks sperm from coming in contact with semen, it takes some time for a patient’s seminal sperm count to drop to zero. Your doctor will perform a seminal analysis a few months following the vasectomy to ensure semen is sperm-free. Once there is no sperm present in the semen, there is no risk of pregnancy during penetrative vaginal sex.
Vasectomy does not affect a patient’s ability to produce semen, ejaculate or orgasm. Most people notice no difference in their sexual drive or performance after this procedure.
Washington University Urology offers virtual visits and in-person appointments for consultations and more information.
Washington University Urology is home to some of the top urologists in the country. Our team provides a wide range of leading-edge treatments and services to patients at numerous locations around the St. Louis area. To learn more about vasectomy and your options for male and reproductive health, make an appointment with an expert Washington University urologist.