See an illustration of the male reproductive system
Birth control is a way for men and women to prevent pregnancy. There are many different methods of birth control; some types also protect against sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Condoms are one type of birth control that — in addition to preventing pregnancy — also prevent the spread of STDs. There are two types of condoms, the male condom and the female condom.
During a vasectomy, the vas deferens from each testicle is clamped, cut, or otherwise sealed. This prevents sperm from mixing with the semen that is ejaculated from the penis. An egg cannot be fertilized when there are no sperm in the semen. The testicles continue to produce sperm, but the sperm are reabsorbed by the body. (This also happens to sperm that are not ejaculated after a while, regardless of whether you have had a vasectomy.) Because the tubes are blocked before the seminal vesicles and prostate, you still ejaculate about the same amount of fluid.
It usually takes several months after a vasectomy for all remaining sperm to be ejaculated or reabsorbed. You must use another method of birth control until you have a semen sample tested and it shows a zero sperm count. Otherwise, you can still get your partner pregnant.
During a vasectomy:
- Your testicles and scrotum are cleaned with an antiseptic and possibly shaved.
- You may be given an oral or intravenous (IV) medicine to reduce anxiety and make you sleepy. If you do take this medicine, you may not remember much about the procedure.
- Each vas deferens is located by touch.
- A local anesthetic is injected into the area.
- Your doctor makes one or two small openings in your scrotum. Through an opening, the two vas deferens tubes are cut. The two ends of the vas deferens are tied, stitched, or sealed. Electrocautery may be used to seal the ends with heat. Scar tissue from the surgery helps block the tubes.
- The vas deferens is then replaced inside the scrotum and the skin is closed with stitches that dissolve and do not have to be removed.
Common vasectomy questions:
What is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy is an operation that makes a man permanently unable to get a woman pregnant. It involves cutting the 2 tubes called vas deferens so that sperm can no longer get into the semen.
How is a vasectomy done?
A vasectomy is usually done in your doctor’s office or in an outpatient surgery center. The operation takes about half an hour. You’ll be awake during the procedure. Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic to numb your scrotum.
After you’re numb, your doctor will make a very small puncture (hole) on one side of your scrotum and pull out part of the vas deferens on that side. You may feel some tugging and pulling. A small section of the vas deferens is removed. The ends of the vas deferens will be sealed with small clamps. Your doctor will then do the same thing on the other side.
The puncture is so small that it heals without stitches.
How effective is vasectomy in preventing pregnancy?
Vasectomy may be the safest, most effective kind of birth control. Only about 15 out of 10,000 couples get pregnant the first year after a vasectomy.
Are there any reasons I shouldn’t have a vasectomy?
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 vasectomy be reversed?
Some vasectomies can be undone, or “reversed,” but the surgery is expensive, not usually covered by insurance and must be performed in a hospital. Even though most men can ejaculate sperm after the reversal surgery, the sperm are often not able to fertilize an egg.
How should I prepare for the operation?
On the day of the operation, bring a jockstrap (an athletic supporter) with you and make sure your genital area is clean. Your doctor will probably 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 of the surgery. The bruises should slowly lighten and be gone in about 2 weeks. Your doctor will give you instructions for you to follow after surgery. The instructions may include:
- Wearing tight-fitting underwear or a jock strap to support your scrotum
- Using an ice pack to help with the pain and swelling
- Getting plenty of rest
- Limiting yourself to light activity until you heal
You should feel back to normal within a couple of weeks.
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 2 weeks before or after the operation. All of these can thin your blood and cause bleeding. Try acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) to relieve pain.
When can I go back 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 go back to work.
Will the vasectomy work right away?
No. You’ll need to ejaculate as many as 15 to 20 times before the sperm will be cleared from both the vas deferens. For that reason, keep using birth control. Your doctor will ask you to bring in samples of your ejaculation after the operation. Only after you have 2 sperm-free samples will you be considered unable to get a woman pregnant. This may take 3 months or longer.
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). Call your doctor if you notice any of the signs in the box below.
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 cause a pregnancy.
Call your 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
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.
The procedure takes about 20 to 30 minutes and can be done in an office or clinic.
No-scalpel vasectomy is a technique that uses a small clamp with pointed ends. Instead of using a scalpel to cut the skin, the clamp is poked through the skin of the scrotum and then opened. The benefits of this procedure include less bleeding, a smaller hole in the skin, and fewer complications. No-scalpel vasectomy is as effective as traditional vasectomy.1