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Men's Health Glossary Sexual-Reproductive Surgery

Vasectomies: Procedure, Recovery, & Side Effects

1 year, 6 months ago

5070  1
Posted on Mar 07, 2019, 4 p.m.

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure for sterilization that is performed on males who no longer want to conceive children. The procedure is safe, more than 99% effective, and has the possibility of being reversed if the patient changes their mind afterwards. According to a 2015 report by the United Nations, vasectomies are quite common, with roughly 1 in 10 men in the United States undergoing the procedure.

*Retraction/Correction made for typographical error, and has been amended to include and note in body of article* 

The equivalent procedure for sterilization of women is called tubal ligation, or more commonly, having her “tubes tied.” In contrast to vasectomies, tubal ligation is a permanent and higher risk surgery. Despite the more complicated and irreversible procedure, tubal ligation is far more popular. According to a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.1% of women of reproductive age chose the surgery as a method of contraception.

If a couple is deciding to undergo sterilization in order to avoid conceiving children, a vasectomy is the safer option. It also allows the possibility for the couple to change their mind.

The procedure:

A vasectomy is when a surgeon obstructs the vas deferens ducts, preventing sperm from travelling from the testicles to the urethra. The man will still be able to ejaculate, but without sperm joining the seminal fluid, the man is considered sterile.

The surgeon accesses the vas deferens ducts by making a small incision in the scrotum. Another option is a no-scalpel vasectomy, wherein the surgeon uses very small holes, which won’t require stitches. Either way, the procedure typically lasts only 30 minutes and the patient is sent home immediately after.


While the patient will receive anesthesia in order to have a painless procedure, soreness is to be expected during recovery. However, recovery usually only requires a few days. Many men only need the weekend to recover before returning to work. Any discomfort can usually be remedied with ice and over-the-counter painkillers.

Having sex again:

Generally after a few days of recovery, once the incisions have had time to heal and pain/swelling is gone, men can begin to have sex again. However, for the first few weeks following the procedure, it is still possible to get pregnant. Sperm can still be found in semen for roughly the first twenty ejaculations, so another form of contraception is still required.

The doctor will schedule a follow up visit to test the semen for sperm in the months following the procedure. Once ejaculate is free of sperm, contraception is no longer needed. However, a vasectomy is not protection from sexually transmitted diseases, in which case condoms should still be used if there any risk of STDs.

Long-term side effects:

It is common to experience discomfort in the testicles during the first few ejaculations following the procedure. However, one should consult a physician if this continues past the first month or two. Once free of any pain, a vasectomy should not have an impact on sex drive.

The procedure will not cause erectile dysfunction either. It’s possible that a negative mental state in regards to the surgery could cause temporary ED, but this should not last. Contrarily, men can suffer from erectile dysfunction regardless of the procedure, before or after, in which case the surgery should still have no impact.


The choice to have a vasectomy requires time, consideration, and research. Seek out a surgeon or urologist who may be able to help determine costs and procedural options. Only .15% of patients experience failure within the first year of procedure, making vasectomies one of the most effective contraceptive methods.

*While long term complication is rare, pain especially extreme pain,* should both be brought to a doctor’s attention. Post vasectomy pain syndrome affects about 1 in every 1000 men. Reversal surgery is a possibility, but can also be difficult and not always a guarantee. A surgeon can provide more information on the likelihood of success and associated costs for a reversal.

** Typographical error corrected from "Any long term complication or pain is extremely rare...."corrected to "While long term complication is rare, pain especially extreme pain...." 

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