Sometimes men worry their sex lives will be forever different after getting “snipped.” However, vasectomy is a very common and safe procedure that does not negatively affect male sexual performance.
“After vasectomy a man still has erections and ejaculates like normal during orgasm; vasectomy just stops sperm from entering semen,” says Stanton Honig, MD, director of the Male Reproductive Health and Male Sexual Medicine programs at Yale Medicine Urology. “In fact, many couples find their intimacy improves because they don’t need to worry about pregnancy.”
Vasectomy is a simple, outpatient procedure that causes minimal discomfort or downtime. It also prevents pregnancy better than all the other options out there—except abstaining from sex altogether, of course. So if you’re looking for a permanent option for family planning, vasectomy may be an excellent choice.
“Vasectomy is quick and easy. While I am doing it, my patients and I talk sports, about their kids and jobs. Then, 15 minutes later, we’re done,” says Dr. Honig, who is one of the authors of the national urologic guidelines on vasectomy for physicians.
What is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy is an in-office procedure that prevents sperm from reaching the semen. So when a man ejaculates, he will release semen that does not contain sperm. (Sperm is still produced but is reabsorbed by the man’s body.
Vasectomy is minor, outpatient surgery for men performed by a urologist. About 500,000 men a year have vasectomies, according to the Urologic Care Foundation.
This birth control method has the lowest failure rate of all available options: only 1 in 2,000 women get pregnant following a partner’s vasectomy surgery, Dr. Honig says. The operation is less painful and invasive than tubal ligation (an operation to block the fallopian tubes in women that requires full general anesthesia). Depending on your insurance, it may end up being less costly than birth control pills over time.
How do I prepare to have a vasectomy?
First, be absolutely sure you don’t want to have children in the future. While a vasectomy can be surgically reversed, you’re smart to be sure you’re your future plans don’t include having a child, because pregnancy isn’t guaranteed after a vasectomy reversal. The vasectomy reversal procedure can also be costly.
There is no preparation needed before vasectomy other than making sure you have a ride home afterwards.
How is a vasectomy performed?
There are two techniques urologic surgeons use:
- Conventional vasectomy: The surgeon makes one or two fine openings into the skin of the scrotum to access the vas deferens (the tube that allows sperm to travel to the semen). He or she then removes a small section of this tube, blocking the passage of the sperm. The ends of the vas deferens are cauterized. The scrotal incisions may be allowed to heal on its own or can be closed with one stitch that dissolves over a few weeks’ time.
- No-scalpel vasectomy: During this procedure, the urologist locates the vas deferens under the skin in the scrotum and clamps it to hold it in place. A small open is then made, through which the vas deferens is gently lifted out. The doctor can then cut, tie or cauterize the two ends, which are then put back in place. The small opening in the scrotum heals on its own.
What are the risks of vasectomy?
Following the procedure, there is a small risk that you’ll have bleeding or infection. Many men also experience minor achiness for a day or two. Although most patients experience no long-term discomfort after vasectomy, about one percent of men encounter post-vasectomy pain syndrome, which means they have an ongoing ache in the scrotal area.
Studies have shown that vasectomy does not put men at greater risk for heart problems, prostate cancer or testicular cancer.
How long does recovery take?
After your vasectomy, you should go home to rest. A mild pain medication like Ibuprofen should take care of the post-operative discomfort, which is typically very mild. If you feel sore, apply an ice pack to the testicles. Some men require a stronger pain medication for the first 24 to 48 hours after the procedure
If your job is sedentary, you can likely return to work within 48 hours. If your job requires heavy lifting, you should rest at home for three to five days before going back to work. Don’t have sex for about a week.
A cautionary note: Although vasectomy prevents new sperm from entering semen, a man will still have plenty of sperm stored in his semen. After vasectomy, you must continue some form of contraception until you are cleared by your urologist to have unprotected intercourse. For most men, this is within three months. You will bring a semen sample to your follow-up appointment with your urologist, who will perform a semen analysis to confirm that you have a zero sperm count.
What special advantages does Yale Medicine offer men who want to have a vasectomy?
At Yale Medicine, our urologists have vast experience with this procedure. Dr. Honig is a member of the American Urological Association vasectomy guidelines committee, teaches other urologists how to handle difficult cases, and performs both conventional and no-scalpel vasectomies.
Yale Medicine Urology regularly receives referrals for more challenging vasectomy cases, while also performing simple, straightforward cases as well.
We are experts in male fertility (and infertility) and leading researchers in the field of men’s sexual and reproductive medicine. This assures you’ll get quality care by a highly skilled surgeon using the latest and best-researched techniques available in vasectomy care today.