Vasectomies - How Effective Are They & What To Expect

Vasectomy Explained

If you are planning for this pregnancy or your most recent babe to be your last, you are probably beginning to think about birth control options for the future. While there are many safe and simple contraceptive solutions for mom post baby, many couples decide that a vasectomy for dad makes the most sense for them. Vasectomies are a safe and effective PERMANENT solution if you are absolutely certain you will not want more children in the future. Here are the basics of the procedure along with some benefits and risks so that you and your partner can make an informed decision that works for your family.

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure for the male that offers a permanent solution for birth control. In the procedure, the doctor will clamp, cut and seal the vas deferens on each testicle preventing the sperm from mixing with semen when ejaculation occurs. Without sperm, the semen is unable to fertilize the egg and pregnancy cannot occur. Although the male will continue to produce sperm, the sperm will be absorbed back into the body rather than released during ejaculation.

How effective is a vasectomy at preventing pregnancy?

A vasectomy is an extremely effective form of birth control. The procedure is approximately 99.85 % effective with only 1-2 pregnancies occurring in every 1.000 cases. When failure does occur, it is usually because a back-up method of birth control was not used during the two months following the procedure when the sperm is clearing from the body via ejaculation or reabsorption. To ensure that an unplanned pregnancy does not occur, be sure to use a back-up method of contraception until your partner has a semen sample tested indicating a zero sperm count.

What to expect in and after the procedure:

A vasectomy is a quick procedure that only takes approximately 20-30 minutes and does not require general anesthesia. The doctor will clean and likely shave the area and then inject a local anesthetic to the scrotum. An IV with medication is often also given to make you sleepy and reduce anxiety levels.

Once the area is numb, the doctor will make two small incisions in the scrotum in which he will cut the vas deferens tubes and then tie, stitch or seal the ends together. The vas deferens is then placed back in the scrotum and dissolvable stiches are used to close the incisions.

Following the procedure, there will be numbness to the area for approximately 1-2 hours and possibly swelling and some discomfort for a few days. You will likely be able to return to work and your normal activities after 1-2 days and can resume having sex once the pain has subsided. You will also want to avoid lifting any heavy objects for about a week. For the first two months following the procedure, a back-up method of birth control is necessary while the sperm is cleared through ejaculation and reabsorption. It is important to remember that you CAN get pregnant during this time period. A back-up method of contraception should be used until your partner has received a sperm count test that equals zero.

Common questions and concerns:

Will having a vasectomy interfere with sex drive?

No. Vasectomies should not interfere with a man’s drive, erection, orgasm or ejaculation though he may experience a mild ache in the testicles with arousal in the months following the procedure.

Are there any risks associated with having a vasectomy?

The risk level for complications with a vasectomy is low. Should complications arise, they may include:

  • Infection at the site of the incision or inside the scrotum
  • Swelling or bruising caused by bleeding under the skin
  • Leaking sperm that creates a sperm granuloma
  • Inflammation of the vas deferens
  • Reconnection of the vas deferens resulting in the man being fertile again. (This is a very rare occurrence)
  • Some studies suggest that having a vasectomy may slightly increase the risk for prostate cancer.

Can the procedure be reversed if we change our minds? If you are thinking you might change your mind later about wanting more children, you should not be considering a vasectomy. Though a reversal may be possible, it is a complicated and difficult procedure that may or may not work and may not be covered by your insurance. Most doctors require a waiting period between the decision to have a vasectomy and the actual procedure to ensure that the patient is absolutely sure of their decision. If you are having second thoughts at any point leading up to the vasectomy, it’s best to opt for a less permanent form of birth control.

How does a vasectomy compare to tubal ligation for a woman?

A vasectomy is overall safer, less expensive and less invasive than tubal ligation. Both procedures have close to a 100 percent effectiveness rate. Vasectomies are a highly effective form of permanent contraception if your family has made the decision that it is complete. As with any form of permanent birth control, you will want to discuss this option thoroughly with your partner and ensure that no action is taken until you both feel absolutely certain about the decision. For all your questions about birth control options after baby, pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife or for a tour of our Birth Center.