What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a brief surgical procedure that cuts and seals off the vas deferens through a scrotal opening, which prevents sperm from entering the patient’s semen.

A vasectomy is the safest and most effective form of birth control – the chances of getting pregnant after a vasectomy is 1 in 2000. The procedure is also safe for the patient.

A vasectomy requires only a local anesthetic and has a recovery time of one week. At this time, the patient can resume all normal physical activity.

How does a vasectomy work?

Sperm are made in the testicles and are delivered and mixed with seminal fluids through a tube called the vas deferens. This delivery forms semen. A vasectomy cuts and seals off each of the two vas deferens, keeping sperm from entering the semen to prevent pregnancy.

Common concerns regarding a vasectomy

Given the simplicity of the actual procedure, concerns are often centered on long-term sexual health. Here is what patients should know:

  • Testosterone levels are unaffected by a vasectomy. Sex drive is unaffected and the patient will experience zero hormone changes after the procedure. Many times, patients experience an increase in virility due to decreased stress worrying about an accidental pregnancy.
  • There is no change in semen volume or orgasm. A vasectomy simply keeps sperm from entering the patient’s semen. Everything else stays the same.

Having sex after a vasectomy

The most important thing to know is that a vasectomy does not provide immediate sterilization to the patient. It takes a long time to clear the sperm, which varies from patient to patient, but the endpoint is the same for all patients; you must use birth control until you have two semen samples. The patient should schedule a follow-up appointment to have semen tested for sperm.

Until the patient’s semen is free of sperm, birth control or condoms still need to be used to prevent pregnancy. It is important to continue to practice safe sex. A vasectomy does not protect against STDs.

Physically, the patient can usually resume sexual activity after one week.

Pre-surgery checklist

Since a vasectomy does not require general anesthesia – only local anesthesia – preparing for the procedure is easy.

  • Stop taking aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen one week before the procedure. The patient should also inform their doctor of all medication being taken, including over the counter drugs. Any medication that thins blood can cause problems during the procedure.
  • Be sure to eat something immediately before the procedure.
  • Shower and clean the genital area prior to surgery. This will prevent infection and decrease recovery time.
  • Arrange for a ride home. Due to post-surgery discomfort, we do not recommend the patient drive immediately after surgery.

Day of the Surgery

On the day of the operation, the patient will undress and lie on a table. The doctor will administer a local anesthetic through an injection into the scrotum. After a few minutes, the area will be numb and ready for incision. A scalpel or pointed clamp is used to make a small hole in the side of the scrotum. The vas deferens is lifted through the hole, cut, sealed, and put back in. Since the vas deferens consists of two tubes, the same will be done on the other side of the scrotum.

After the vas deferens is sealed, the incisions may be closed off with stitches, but oftentimes stitches are not needed – the hole is so small that it can heal on its own.

Post-surgery checklist

Even though a vasectomy is a minor procedure that doesn’t require prolonged recovery time, proper rest is still important.

Here are our recommendations for a successful recovery:

  • Wear an athletic supporter and/or tight underwear to support the scrotum. The support will aid in recovery by reducing swelling and inflammation while preventing infection. Note, it is a good idea to bring an athletic supporter and/or tight underwear on the day of the procedure.
  • Ice the scrotum to reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to place a thin towel between the ice pack and skin.
  • Consult with your physician regarding pain medicine after the procedure.

The patient needs to stay off their feet for about 2 days and lie down whenever possible – as opposed to sitting upright in a chair. This will help the patient get back to work quickly.

Recommended times to return to work usually are a couple days for desk jobs and one week for more strenuous jobs. Of course, the doctor must approve all of these times.

Exercise can be resumed in 7-10 days with doctor approval.

Possible side effects associated with a vasectomy

Side effects are minor. But, it is important that every patient knows what can happen after a vasectomy. A patient may experience the following immediately after surgery:

  • Numbness or bruising of the scrotum along with swelling and minor pain
  • Bleeding or a blood clot (hematoma) inside the scrotum
  • Infection at the incision
  • A testicular cyst  
  • On very rare occasions, a patient may develop chronic testicular pain

It is recommended that the patient call their doctor if they feel a lump on their scrotum, have a fever, experience chills, notice increased swelling of the scrotum, have trouble urinating, or have constant bleeding at the incision.