A vasectomy is a procedure for male sterilisation. The procedure is considered to be a minor operation, which is 99% effective and considered to be a permanent contraception method. During a vasectomy operation, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are blocked, cut or sealed. Once this is done, the semen will no longer contain any sperm.
There are two forms of vasectomy; the first is a conventional vasectomy. A conventional vasectomy uses two small incisions where the surgeon will then access the tubes, remove a small section and then close the tubes by tying them or sealing them with heat.
A non-scalpel vasectomy is an increasingly popular method of vasectomy. The doctor will find the tubes in the scrotum and then hold them in place with a small clamp. A specialist tool will then puncture a small hole in the skin of the scrotum to subsequently access the tubes and close them. This method doesn't require the surgeon to cut the skin with a scalpel and won't require stitches.
Is a Vasectomy Right for Me?
As with any medical procedure, there are both advantages and disadvantages. A vasectomy is considered a permanent method of contraception as it is difficult to reverse. With this in mind, many surgeons are reluctant to complete the operation for men under the age of thirty, in case their circumstances change.
If you are sure that you do not want to have children, then a vasectomy is a safer and simpler operation compared to female sterilisation. It is a simple operation whereby you can go home the same day. While it might be painful or uncomfortable just after the surgery, it rarely poses a problem for your long-term health.
Once a vasectomy is completed, it will not affect your sex life; you will still have all the functionality and produce semen, however, the semen will not contain sperm. While a vasectomy will prevent pregnancy, it will not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. You may still need to use contraception after the operation until tests show that your semen is free from sperm.
Your GP will discuss the vasectomy with you before the operation to ensure that you are entirely sure and that you understand your circumstances. If a GP doesn't believe a vasectomy is in your best interests, they can refuse to refer you for surgery.
Preparing for the Procedure
To prepare for a vasectomy, your doctor may ask you to stop taking medication that can cause blood-thinning, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. This will usually be for several days before your planned procedure.
Before you arrive for surgery, make sure to shower or bathe. It is wise to bring tight-fitting underwear or athletic support underwear to wear after the procedure. This can help to reduce the swelling and protect the scrotum as it will feel tender after the operation.
You should also arrange for transport home after the operation. You should avoid driving home yourself as this will cause pressure on the affected area.
The vasectomy procedure is completed under a local anaesthetic, which means you will be awake throughout the operation, although the scrotum and surrounding area will be numb. While you may feel uncomfortable, you won't be able to feel pain. A general anaesthetic may be offered for those with a nervous disposition or who are allergic to local anaesthesia.
The operation can be completed as a day-patient in hospital, at your local GP surgery or a sexual health clinic. It usually takes around 20 minutes to perform. Your doctor will then complete either a non-scalpel or conventional vasectomy, explaining the procedure fully, so that you are happy.
Recovering from the Operation
It is normal to feel uncomfortable for several days after the procedure. You may feel pain and notice swelling and bruising to the scrotum. Usually, your GP will recommend you take painkillers, such as paracetamol afterwards. If you still experience a high-level of pain that won't subside with painkillers, make sure you speak to your GP for advice.
For the first few ejaculations, after a vasectomy has taken place, it is normal to see blood in the semen. It isn't harmful and is very common. It is worthwhile to remember that there may still be sperm in the semen for the first few ejaculations after a vasectomy. You will need to use another form of contraception for around eight weeks after the operation and will have to conduct two clear semen tests to be sure the tubes are completely clear of sperm.
You can return to work after a couple of days of rest, but it is best to avoid heavy lifting and excessive exercise and sport for a week afterwards.
For most people, a vasectomy will mean the area is tender and uncomfortable for several days after the procedure. However, in rare cases, there can be more serious complications such as sperm granulomas where sperm leaks and collects in the surrounding tissue forming hard lumps. It is possible to develop infections due to bacteria entering the cuts. With this in mind, it's essential to keep the genitals clean and dry to minimise the risk.
Other possible side effects include long-term testicle pain, testicles feeling full and haematoma, which is where blood collects and clots as a result of broken blood vessels.
There is also a possibility that the tubes carrying the sperm reconnect after a vasectomy, which means that it is no longer a contraception method. However, this is very rare.
How effective is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy has a success rate of over 99%.
How long before you can have sex again?
You can have sex again as soon as you feel comfortable to do so. However, you will need to initially use contraception as there may still be sperm carried through in your semen. After two semen tests have been carried out you should be given the all clear and will no longer require contraception.
Is it reversible?
It is possible to have a reverse procedure, however, it may not be successful. If the reversal procedure is carried out within ten years of the vasectomy, the success rate is around 55% and drops to 25% after ten years.
Does it affect your libido?
No, your testicles will still produce testosterone. Your sex drive will remain the same. Similarly, the sensation of sex will stay the same.
Do you still ejaculate after a vasectomy?
You still ejaculate normally after a vasectomy, however the semen will not contain any sperm.
How will I know if the operation has been successful?
You will complete two clear semen tests to ensure there is no sperm left in the tubes.
Will I need to use contraception?
You will need to use contraception until you have completed two clear semen tests.
Can a vasectomy cause prostate cancer?
There is no evidence to suggest that a vasectomy increases the risk of cancer. Prostate cancer can occur in men who have had a vasectomy.