What is a vasectomy? — A vasectomy is a procedure that a man can choose as a type of long-term birth control. After a vasectomy, a man cannot get a woman pregnant.
How does a vasectomy prevent pregnancy? — A vasectomy prevents pregnancy by blocking the path the sperm takes to leave the body.
Sperm are made in the testicles. The testicles are found inside a skin sac called the “scrotum.” Sperm are stored in the epididymis, which is a small organ that sits on top of the testicles. During ejaculation, sperm travel from the epididymis through tubes and out the end of the penis.
During a vasectomy, a doctor cuts and blocks a tube called the “vas deferens.” This prevents sperm from leaving the body. After a vasectomy, a man can still ejaculate fluid, called semen. But the semen does not have any sperm in it.
Why might I choose to have a vasectomy? — You might choose to have a vasectomy if you do not want any more children, and do not want to use birth control each time you have sex.
Let your doctor know if you have any questions or worries about having a vasectomy. He or she can talk with you and tell you about the procedure.
Some men choose to have a sample of their sperm saved before they have a vasectomy. If you want to have a sample of your sperm saved, talk with your doctor.
What happens during a vasectomy? — A vasectomy is done in a doctor’s office and takes about 30 minutes. During the procedure, a doctor numbs the skin on the scrotum. Then he or she makes a small cut in the skin to reach the vas deferens, cut it, and seal it off. The procedure does not hurt, but some men can feel cramping or pulling.
What happens after a vasectomy? — You can go home right after the procedure, but you will need to rest for 2 to 3 days. After a vasectomy, most men have some discomfort and bruising in the scrotum. Your doctor will tell you which pain-relieving medicines to take. He or she might also prescribe a medicine to treat your pain.
Your doctor will give you instructions about what you should and should not do after your vasectomy. He or she will probably tell you to:
●Wear a jock strap to hold the bandage in place
●Not bathe or swim for 1 to 2 days
●Not lift heavy objects or exercise too hard for 7 days
●Wait 7 days to have sex. After that, you must use another form of birth control for a few months to prevent pregnancy.
What are the side effects of a vasectomy? — Side effects are uncommon, but can occur. They can include:
●Severe pain in the scrotum
●Bleeding in the scrotum
●Infection of the skin around the cut
If you have any side effects, let your doctor know. Some side effects go away over time, but others might need treatment.
How long does it take for a vasectomy to work? — It takes a few months for a vasectomy to work. That’s because the tubes can still have sperm in them.
A man needs to ejaculate 20 or more times after a vasectomy to clear out all the sperm from the tubes. Because of this, a couple should use another type of birth control for a few months to prevent pregnancy.
Will I have a follow-up test? — Yes. You will have a follow-up test called a “sperm count” to make sure that your semen does not have any sperm in it. Most men have this done 3 months after their vasectomy.
A sperm count checks how many sperm are in a sample of semen. For this test, a man needs to provide a sample of his semen. If your sample has no sperm, you can stop using other birth control because you will not be able to get a woman pregnant. But if your sample has sperm in it, you can get a woman pregnant. You should still use birth control until you have another sperm count done.
What if I have had a vasectomy and want to father a child? — If you have had a vasectomy and want to father a child, talk with your doctor. A surgery to reconnect the vas deferens and open the sperm’s path can be done. But this surgery does not always work.
Does a vasectomy prevent getting a disease from sex? — No. A vasectomy does not prevent you from getting or spreading a disease from sex. To prevent getting or spreading a disease from sex, you should use a type of protection called a condom.
Content adapted from UpToDate Patient Information.