Vasectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the United States. This straightforward operation is a form of birth control that works by preventing sperm from leaving the body through the penis. Doctors do about 500,000 vasectomies in the US per year. They are usually covered by insurance.
Since the 1980s, the preferred method of vasectomy has been the no-scalpel vasectomy. This method is as effective as a traditional vasectomy. The no-scalpel procedure is less invasive and has a shorter recovery time, making it a popular option.
What Does a Vasectomy Do?
A vasectomy is a highly effective method of birth control. It's a surgical procedure where a doctor blocks off the small tubes that carry sperm out of your testicles. You can still ejaculate but the fluid will not contain any sperm. Without sperm present, there is no risk of your partner getting pregnant.
Sperm are produced in your testicles. They mix with seminal fluid, which is produced in your prostate and seminal vesicles. The mixture of sperm and seminal fluid travels through a tube called the vas deferens, which takes it to the urethra. The urethra is the tube that runs inside your penis. You pass semen and urine through it.
In a vasectomy, your doctor accesses the vas deferens and surgically disconnects it. Once the tube is surgically severed, your doctor seals the cut ends. You still produce sperm in your testicles, and your penis and scrotum look and feel the same from the outside. But with the internal passage blocked, sperm cannot leave the testicles and become part of an ejaculation. Your orgasms will only contain fluid, no sperm.
No-Scalpel vs. Traditional Vasectomy
There are two types of vasectomy: traditional and no-scalpel vasectomy. Both are outpatient procedures. Many doctors perform them in their offices. In some cases, you may need to go to a hospital or surgical center. The operations only take 30 minutes or so and you can go home the same day.
Traditional vasectomy. In a traditional vasectomy, your doctor will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around your scrotum. They will use a needle to inject the anesthetic. Your doctor may offer you medicine to help with any anxiety you feel.
Your doctor will then make one or two small incisions in the skin of your scrotum. They will find the vas deferens and cut it. They will seal the ends of the vas by tying or cauterizing them. After that, your doctor will close the incisions with stitches or another method.
No scalpel vasectomy. With a no-scalpel vasectomy, your doctor will need to numb the skin of your scrotum. Some doctors use traditional local anesthetic administered with a needle. Other doctors offer no-needle numbing, which uses a spray to apply topical numbing medicine. Anti-anxiety medication is also available if you want it.
Instead of making an incision into the scrotum, your doctor will make a small puncture into the skin then stretch the skin gently to see inside. They will then use the same technique as a traditional vasectomy to cut and seal the vas deferens. The puncture closes immediately after the procedure without any need for stitches.
Recovering from a No-Scalpel Vasectomy
The real benefits of a no-scalpel vasectomy come in the recovery period. The recovery time for a traditional vasectomy is close to a week, with lingering soreness, swelling, and bruising. After a no-scalpel vasectomy, most people can resume normal activity levels after only a few days. There is less bruising and swelling.
No matter which type of vasectomy you have, it will not be fully effective until several months after your procedure. When you have your vasectomy, the sperm that were in the position to be ejaculated can live for many weeks. You could ejaculate them and cause a pregnancy during that time.
Your doctor will ask you to have a follow-up appointment 90 days after your vasectomy to check for any remaining sperm. Use a reliable method of contraception until you know that you're no longer ejaculating live sperm.
Vasectomies are very reliable as a form of birth control. Fewer than 1% of vasectomies fail. If you are considering a vasectomy, speak with your doctor. They will be able to help you decide if it’s right for you.