A vasectomy is a form of birth control. It prevents sperm from being released during ejaculation. During the procedure, a tube called the vas deferens is cut or blocked. The vas deferens is the duct that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra.

Although vasectomy is theoretically reversible, reversal doesn’t always work. You should consider vasectomy only if you’re certain you don’t want to have any/any more children.

Read on to learn about vasectomies, how they’re done, what recovery is like, and more.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article uses gender

The goal of a vasectomy is for there to be no sperm in an individual’s semen so that it can’t cause pregnancy.

For pregnancy to occur, sperm must travel from the testicles to the urethra. Sealing or cutting the vas deferens tube prevents sperm from reaching the urethra.

A vasectomy is one of the most effective methods of birth control. According to the American Urological Association, pregnancy will occur in approximately 1 out of every 2,000 couples where the partner with a penis had a vasectomy.

A vasectomy must be performed in your doctor’s office or a medical facility. It’s a minor surgery, but it’s still surgery.

Most vasectomies are performed by urologists, specialists who focus on conditions affecting the urinary tract, and male reproductive health.

There are two common types of vasectomies: Conventional and no-scalpel. Both of these procedures typically involve local anesthetic, but in some cases, a hospital visit under general anesthesia may also be advised.

  • Conventional vasectomy: During this surgery, small cuts are made in the scrotum in order to reach the vas deferens tubes. A small piece of the tube is removed, leaving a small space between the two ends. Then, the two ends of the tube may be tied together, or some tissue will be put in between them. The small cuts in the scrotum may be then seutured together with dissolvable stitches, or allowed to heal on their own.
  • no-scalpel vasectomy: Not scapel cuts are made during this process. A urologist feels for the vas deferens tube and then holds it in place with a clamp. A tiny hole is then made in the scrotum so the tube can be taken out and then cut or tied. Afterwards, the vas deferens tube is put back in place.
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Illustration by Yaja’ Mulcare

While most individuals who receive general anesthesia can go home right away, your doctor will advise you on the best course of action for your specific case.

While a vasectomy is one of the most effective methods to prevent pregnancy, there’s always a small chance of pregnancy can occur.

Another important fact about vasectomy is that it isn’t immediately effective. Existing sperm need to clear out of your system before having sex without a barrier method. This can take up to 3 months, which is why it’s important to follow up with your urologist to check on sperm counts as time goes on.

Don’t assume the procedure has been effective until you get definitive results from your doctor.

A vasectomy is an effective and permanent way to prevent pregnancy. It’s best for individuals who are certain they don’t want children. A vasectomy doesn’t typically have any lasting effects on sexual activity, orgasm, or performance.

A vasectomy is typically a permanent procedure. Reversal may be possible in some circumstances, but it’s not always an option. Additionally, reversal is more complicated than the initial procedure.

Potential short-term symptoms of vasectomy include:

  • swelling
  • bruising
  • some discomfort

Most of these symptoms should go away on their own after about 2 weeks. But if you’re dealing with either of these symptoms after your surgery, you should talk with your doctor ASAP:

  • Infection. A fever and redness or pain on the scrotum could signal an infection
  • Hematoma. This is bleeding under the skin that looks like dark bruise. This can also lead to swelling.

There are other risks to vasectomies, although they’re very rare. These risks include:

  • Granuloma. This is a lump in the scrotum caused by sperm that leaks out of the vas deferens tube into tissue.
  • Postvasectomy pain syndrome. This is a chronic issue a small minitory of individuals deal with after a vasectomy. This chronic pain condition may be caused by consequences of the surgury like nerve compression. Treatment for postvasectomy pain syndrome includes pain reduction, medication, and surgery
  • Procedure failure. This can occasionally happen. If 1,000 vasectomies at performed, it’s estimated that 11 will likely fail over 2 years.
  • Regret over procedure. This can occur more commonly in individuals who get a vasectomy before age 30.

Even though a vasectomy is a relatively quick and simple procedure, it’s still surgery, and you may deal with some pain and discomfort for a few days. Over-the-counter pain medication should help, but make sure to get clarification with your doctor before the procedure on what you should expect, discomfort-wise.

  • Most individuals can return to desk work 1 day after the surgery.
  • Swelling and pain may occur for a few days after surgery. Holding an ice pack on the scrotum, and wearing supportive underwear like a jockstrap may help ease these symptoms.
  • It’s advised to avoid sexual intercourse, as well as strenuous activity, for 3-7 days after the procedure.
  • A semen analysis is typically done 8 to 16 weeks following a vasectomy.

If you’re experiencing painful swelling, a fever, or any other symptoms that are disrupting your life postsurgery, it’s important to contact your doctor right away, as these may be signs of serious complications.

A vasectomy is an effective method of birth control. But like most surgical procedures, it has risks.

Most importantly, it isn’t always reversible. If you’re sure that you don’t want to risk pregnancy in the future, this procedure may be a good option to discuss with your doctor.