Man recovering in hospital

If you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re sure you don’t want children, or if you and your partner have decided your family is complete, you may be exploring the option of having a vasectomy. A vasectomy is a safe and effective form of male sterilization that about 500,000 men in the U.S. undergo each year, according to the Urology Care Foundation.

But, is the procedure right for you? Read on to learn about how the surgery is performed, its effectiveness, and what vasectomy recovery is like.

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What Happens During a Vasectomy

During a vasectomy, a surgeon makes a cut or two in the skin of the scrotum to get to the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from your testes into your semen. The surgeon then cuts the vas deferens, making it impossible for sperm to exit your body. The procedure lasts about 10 to 30 minutes and is usually performed in a doctor’s office or at a surgery center under local anesthesia.

There’s also a no-scalpel option in which the doctor makes a small hole instead of a cut. Unlike the standard surgery, this one doesn’t require stitches.

Vasectomy effectiveness is nearly 100 percent, making it the most effective form of birth control other than abstinence.

Who Should Have a Vasectomy

Most healthy men can have the surgery, but if you have chronic testicular pain or a testicular disease, you may not be a good candidate. It’s also important to be emotionally and mentally prepared. Sterilization is a major life decision, so talk to your partner and your doctor at length before committing.

Some vasectomies can later be reversed through microsurgery that reconnects the two ends of the vas deferens, allowing sperm to mix with seminal fluid again. However, reversal surgery is more complicated than the initial surgery, and it takes a few hours. If you’re undecided about having children in the future, another option is to freeze sperm for assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) at a later date. Keep in mind, though, that IVF is costly and isn’t always effective.

Vasectomy Recovery

The recovery process is short and usually free of complications. You may feel some discomfort and you might need mild pain medicine for a few days. You can treat swelling with ice packs on the scrotum and by wearing supportive garments, such as tight underwear or an athletic supporter. Many men are able to return to work and non-strenuous activities within a few days. You should wait at least a week to have sex and to participate in other physically demanding activities.

Plan to use another form of birth control for the first several months of recovery, as it takes about 25 ejaculations for your semen to be completely free of sperm. To ensure your semen is free of sperm, your doctor will schedule a follow-up visit three or more months after your surgery to do a semen analysis.

Potential Vasectomy Risks

Complications are rare. Minor risks after surgery include bruising, swelling, inflammation, and infection. Tell your doctor if you have pain or swelling that lasts more than a few days.

Having a vasectomy shouldn’t affect your sex life — erection, ejaculation, and orgasm will happen as before. Remember, however, that a vasectomy doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases; a condom is still the best defense against STDs.

To learn more about vasectomy surgery, visit the UPMC Men’s Health Center or call 1-877-641-4636(4MEN) to make an appointment.

Sources

Urology Care Foundation, What is a Vasectomy? https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/vasectomy

UPMC, Absent From Pain https://share.upmc.com/2013/11/absent-from-pain/

UPMC, How Does In Vitro Fertilization Work? An In-Depth Guide for Potential Patients https://share.upmc.com/2017/10/what-is-in-vitro-fertilization/

About Urology

The UPMC Department of Urology treats all manners of conditions involving the urinary tract and male reproductive organs. We treat those disorders both in children and adults. We have a multifaceted team of physicians and researchers working together to provide the best care. We provide cutting-edge treatments, and we continue to lead research into even better methods for diagnosis and treatment. U.S. News & World Report ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as among the best hospitals in the country for urological care.