If you’ve reached a point in your life where you’re certain you no longer want to be able to have children, you may want to consider a vasectomy.
A vasectomy is a simple surgical procedure that involves cutting or sealing the vas deferens — tubes that carry sperm from your testicles to your penis. After the procedure your semen won’t contain any sperm, so you won’t be able to fertilise any of your partner’s eggs.
A vasectomy won’t affect your sex drive or your ability to have sex and you will still ejaculate as normal.
A vasectomy is normally carried out under a local anaesthetic, which means your scrotum will be numb and you won’t feel any pain. It takes about 15 minutes to complete the procedure.
There are two types of vasectomy: a conventional vasectomy and a no-scalpel vasectomy:
In a conventional vasectomy, two small cuts are made on each side of your scrotum and the vas deferens are cut. The ends of the cut tubes are then sealed, either by tying them or using heat. Finally, the cuts in your scrotum are stitched up using dissolvable stitches. The stitches will disappear by themselves after a few weeks.
In a no-scalpel vasectomy, instead of two cuts, your doctor will make one small hole in your scrotum to access the vas deferens. This means they don’t need to use a scalpel. The vas deferens are pulled through the hole and then cut and sealed using the same method as a conventional vasectomy. A no-scalpel vasectomy doesn’t need stitches and your scrotum will feel less sore afterwards.
After a vasectomy, it’s normal to feel some discomfort for a few days. You may also notice swelling or bruising around your scrotum. You can take painkillers to manage the pain and wear tight-fitting underwear to help support your scrotum and ease the discomfort. You should avoid heavy lifting, sports or any other strenuous activity for a week or so.
You might also notice blood in your semen the first few times you ejaculate after the procedure. This is normal and not something to worry about.
A vasectomy is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, you won’t be sterile immediately after the operation. You can have sex as soon as you feel comfortable doing so, but there may still be healthy sperm in your vas deferens for eight to 12 weeks afterwards. It is therefore important to use contraception during this period.
After 12 weeks, a sample of your semen will be tested to see if it has any sperm in it. Sometimes it’s necessary to have two semen tests. Once you have a test that shows you don’t have any sperm in your semen, you can be certain that you won’t be able to get a woman pregnant.
There is still a slim chance that you’ll continue to have sperm in your semen, but these sperm won’t be able to move and are therefore very unlikely to fertilise an egg.
It is possible to reverse a vasectomy, though the procedure is delicate and not guaranteed to be successful. It’s therefore important to think carefully about whether a vasectomy is right for you before you have one as you might not be able to regain your fertility.
A vasectomy reversal is most likely to be successful if it’s done soon after the vasectomy. When carried out within three years, about three in four cases are successful. That drops to about one in two, three to eight years after the vasectomy and one in three after 15 years or more.
Although a vasectomy reversal is more complicated than a vasectomy, you won’t usually need to stay in hospital overnight.
You’ll have a general anaesthetic, so you’ll be asleep during the procedure. Your doctor will make two cuts on each side of your scrotum and then carefully pull the vas deferens through the cuts to repair them. The tubes will be re-joined with dissolvable stitches, placed back inside your scrotum and the cuts to your scrotum will be stitched up. The procedure typically takes one to two hours.
As with a vasectomy, your scrotum will probably feel sore and bruised afterwards. You’ll need to rest and you shouldn’t have sex for three weeks afterwards while the tubes heal.
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