Updated July 2021
A vasectomy is a safe and effective form of male sterilization. If you’re sure you don’t want children — or you and your partner decide your family is complete — you may be curious about having a vasectomy.
About 500,000 men in the United States have a vasectomy each year, according to the Urology Care Foundation.
But is the procedure right for you? Read on to learn more about vasectomies, their effectiveness, and recovery.
Who Should Have a Vasectomy?
Most healthy men can have the procedure. But if you have chronic testicular pain or testicular disease, you may not be a good candidate.
It’s also important to be emotionally and mentally prepared. Sterilization is a significant life decision, so talk to your partner and your doctor before committing.
A surgeon can reverse a vasectomy through microsurgery that reconnects the two ends of the vas deferens. This procedure allows sperm to mix with seminal fluid again. Reversal surgery is more complicated than the initial surgery. It takes a few hours to complete and doesn’t always work.
If you’re undecided about having children in the future, you may want to wait to have the procedure.
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How Effective Is a Vasectomy?
A vasectomy is almost 100% effective. Other than abstinence, it is the most reliable method of birth control. Having a vasectomy does not have long-term side effects. It only limits your ability to make a woman pregnant.
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. These are 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. Most men have the surgery 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 procedure, this doesn’t require stitches.
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The recovery process is short and usually free of complications. You may feel some discomfort and require mild pain medicine for a few days. Within a week, you should be back to normal.
You can treat swelling with ice packs on the scrotum. You can also wear supportive garments, such as tight underwear or an athletic supporter, to treat swelling.
Plan to use another form of birth control during the first several months of recovery. 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 3 or more months after your surgery for a semen analysis.
If you experience severe pain or pain that lasts longer than a few days, see your doctor. A small percentage of men (1% to 2%) develop post-vasectomy pain syndrome. Doctors treat this testicular pain with medicine, physical therapy, and sometimes even surgery.
How Long Do I Need to Rest After a Vasectomy?
Try to rest as much as possible for 2 to 3 days after the procedure. If you don’t have a physically demanding job, you may return to work in a couple of days.
Many men can return to work and non-strenuous activities within a few days. You should wait at least a week to have sex, lift anything heavy, or exercise.
How Soon Can I Walk or Shower After a Vasectomy?
You can walk right after a vasectomy, but you should take it easy. It’s best to relax on the couch for a day or two. Doctors recommend waiting to shower or bathe for at least 24 hours after the procedure to avoid infection around the incision.
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. A vasectomy does not cause erectile dysfunction. The only change is that your semen no longer contains sperm.
But remember that a vasectomy doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). 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.
About Men’s Health Center
The UPMC Men’s Health Center is dedicated to male health and to the evaluation and treatment of conditions affecting men’s sexual and reproductive health. With years of clinical experience in male sexual medicine and surgery, our team has treated a wide variety of conditions and performed thousands of surgeries, providing patients with the highest level of quality care. Our providers understand the intimate nature of male sexual difficulties, and we are dedicated to helping you restore your normal level of sexual function in a comfortable, educational, and discreet environment.