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Vasectomy is surgical procedure you may choose if you are a man and you do not want to father any more children. The word "vasectomy" comes from the two tubes called the "vas deferens" that are cut during the operation.

Procedure overview

The vas deferens carry the sperm produced in your testicles to your urethra, which is the tube inside your penis. Vasectomy is usually done by a surgeon in the office or in an outpatient setting using local anesthesia. Evidence shows that vasectomy is one of the safest and most effective types of birth control. Studies show that only 15 men out of 10,000 make their partner pregnant in the first year after a vasectomy.

Once the vas deferens are cut during vasectomy, your sperm can't get into your semen, so you can't make a woman pregnant. You will still be able to have sex normally and have an ejaculation. Sperm that remain in your testicles are safely absorbed into your body.

The procedure to reverse a vasectomy doesn't always work, so you shouldn’t consider this procedure unless you are really sure you don't want any more children.

Reasons for the procedure

Choosing a vasectomy as a form of birth control may be a good choice if:

  • You are an adult male.

  • You are in a stable relationship in which both partners have agreed to permanent birth control.

  • You are in a relationship in which pregnancy would be a health risk for your partner.

  • You or your partner has a genetic disorder that you don't want to pass on to a child.

If you are unsure if you want to have children in the future, you may have other partners in the future, or you plan to have children after reversing your vasectomy, vasectomy may not be the best choice for you.

Risks of the procedure

Vasectomy is a very safe procedure, but all surgeries carry some risks. You will need to sign a consent form that explains the risks and benefits of the surgery and you should discuss these risks and benefits with your surgeon. Some potential risks of vasectomy surgery include:

  • Pain continuing long after surgery

  • Bleeding and bruising

  • A (usually mild) inflammatory reaction to sperm that spill during surgery called "sperm granuloma"

  • Infection

Also, the vas deferens may grow back together, which could cause an unwanted pregnancy. This does not happen often.

Some sperm may remain in your vas deferens for some time after surgery. You should continue to use another form of birth control until your surgeon tests your semen about three months after surgery and tells you there are no sperm left.

There may be other risks, depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the procedure.

Before the procedure

About two weeks before your surgery, tell your surgeon about any medications you take, including herbal supplements and over-the-counter medications. You may be asked to stop taking aspirin or other medications that thin your blood and may increase bleeding. Tell your doctor if you or someone in your family has any history of reaction to local anesthesia.

On the day of your surgery wear loose, comfortable clothing. Your surgeon may give you instructions for cleaning your scrotal area before surgery. Doctors will usually give specific instructions about what you can eat or drink before the procedure. You may also be asked to bring a scrotal support (jockstrap) to wear after surgery. Ask your surgeon if you will need someone to drive you home.

During the procedure

Vasectomy is almost always done under local anesthesia. The procedure takes about 30 minutes. Here is what you may expect during the procedure:

  1. Your scrotum may be cleaned and shaved before the vasectomy.

  2. Your surgeon will likely inject your scrotal area to make it numb before surgery. You will probably be awake for the procedure.

  3. Your surgeon will make a small opening in your upper scrotal area to locate the vas deferens.

  4. You may feel a tugging sensation as your surgeon pulls the vas deferens into the opening.

  5. Your vas deferens will then be cut and small clamps or ties may be used on both ends.

  6. Your surgeon will then do the same procedure on the other side of your scrotum.

  7. In many cases, the incisions are so small that sutures are not needed. In some cases, small stitches or skin glue may be used to close the incisions.

After the procedure

You will probably be able to go home right after surgery. Ask your surgeon what type of medicine you may need for pain. You may be told to use an icepack for the first day to reduce pain and swelling. Here is what you may expect during recovery from vasectomy:

  • You should rest at home the day after surgery and avoid any strenuous activity.

  • Depending on the type of work you do, you may be able to return within one to three days.

  • You should be able to return to most activities within one week.

  • You may be asked to wear a scrotal support for a few days.

  • You may be able to return to sexual activity in about one week.

Notify your surgeon about any of the following:

  • Increasing pain or pain that is not relieved by medication

  • Any drainage, bleeding, redness, or swelling

  • Fever

  • Trouble passing urine

  • A lump in your scrotum