What Is a Vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a small operation to prevent pregnancy. It blocks sperm from getting to your semen when you ejaculate. With no sperm leaving your body, you can’t get someone pregnant. You can still have an orgasm and ejaculate.
Your doctor can do your vasectomy, a routine procedure that takes about 30 minutes, in their office. You'll go home afterward. Your doctor may call it male sterilization. Your friends might refer to it as “the snip” or “getting snipped.”
For this type, the doctor makes cuts in your scrotum to reach two tubes. Each tube is called a "vas deferens," and you have one for each testicle. Your doctor may remove a small piece of each tube and leave a short gap between the two ends. They might sear each end, but they will tie each one off with a stitch. Your doctor may be able to do both with one cut, or they may have to make a second cut. You might get stitches that dissolve over time to help the cuts close. When each vas deferens has been cut, sperm can no longer reach your semen or leave your body.
The doctor feels for each vas deferens under your scrotum and uses a clamp to hold it in place. They’ll make a tiny hole in your skin, stretch it open, and lift each vas deferens out. They’ll cut it, then seal it with searing, stitches, or both.
How Effective Are Vasectomies?
These procedures are nearly 100% effective. In very rare cases, the tubes can rejoin. If that happens, sperm could leave your body and cause a pregnancy.
Sperm can still get out for a little while right after a vasectomy. Be sure to get the follow-up test that checks on that, so you know when you can stop using another method of birth control. (Watch a video about vasectomy and its effectiveness.)
Side Effects of a Vasectomy
The procedures are safe. You may have some mild pain afterward, along with some swelling in your scrotum and possibly a little bleeding. But these don't happen often and aren't typically serious if they do. About 1% to 2% of men have pain that doesn't go away.
Complications aren’t common, but if they happen, they can include bruising, inflammation, and infection. These are almost never serious, but tell your doctor if you have symptoms. A few other issues are possible but rare:
- An ache or feeling of pressure or discomfort in a testicle
- Sperm granuloma (a hard lump or inflammation caused by leaking sperm)
- Spermatocele (a cyst in the tube that collects sperm)
- Hydrocele (a sac of fluid around a testicle that causes swelling in your scrotum)
Benefits of a Vasectomy
If you don’t want children, it's as reliable a form of birth control as you can get. It's also less likely to cause problems than a woman having her tubes tied (aka tubal ligation), and it's less expensive. A vasectomy is a one-time cost that may even be covered by your insurance plan.
Recovery After a Vasectomy
Once you’re home, take it easy:
- Rest for at least 1 day. You should recover completely in less than a week. Many men have the procedure on a Friday and return to work on Monday.
- You'll probably feel sore for a few days. Treat swelling and pain with an ice pack. You can also wear a jockstrap for support.
When Can You Have Sex Again After a Vasectomy?
Give it a few days. Use birth control until you get a test that shows that your semen is free of sperm. You can get this test once you've had 10-20 ejaculations after the vasectomy.
If the results show there’s still sperm in your semen, the doctor will ask you to come back later to take the test again. That’s the only way to know if you're in the clear.
Does a Vasectomy Protect Against STDs?
Can a Vasectomy Be Reversed?
Sometimes. But reversing a vasectomy isn’t easy and doesn’t always work. Don’t get the procedure unless you're sure you won’t want to father children in the future. (Get more information on how a vasectomy may be reversed.)
Does a Vasectomy Make Prostate Cancer More Likely?
The research on this is mixed. The American Cancer Society says that some studies have suggested that men who have vasectomies may be slightly more likely than other men to get prostate cancer, but other studies haven’t found such a link.
The most current findings show that a vasectomy does not raise a man's risk of getting prostate cancer and that this concern should not be a reason to avoid having one. (Find out more on what causes prostate cancer.)