Male vasectomy – everything you need to know

More commonly known as 'the snip'

This week’s contraception (commonly known as the snip) is a form that differs greatly to a pill, injection or condom and is often chosen as a more permanent method for males.

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy (male sterilisation) is a permanent surgical procedure to cut or seal the tubes that carry a man’s sperm. It prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from getting into a man’s semen. The surgery is considered permanent and incredibly hard to reverse, so should be carefully considered. However, if you do decide that this is the method for you, rest assured that it’s 99% effective.

How is a vasectomy done?

The vasectomy procedure is usually done whilst the male is under local anaesthetic, meaning you will be awake, but will not feel any pain. The whole procedure takes roughly 15 minutes and works by stopping sperm from getting into the males semen. The tubes that carry this from a man’s testicles to the penis are cut, blocked or sealed with heat. This means that the semen no longer has sperm in it and a woman’s egg will not be fertilised.

How to get a vasectomy

You will need to discuss getting a vasectomy in detail with your doctor – they will ask you a number of questions around your circumstances, and you may want to discuss it with your partner. If you decide to go ahead with it, you can get a vasectomy for free on the NHS, but may need to wait several months on a waiting list.

There are two types of vasectomy:

  • A conventional vasectomy (where they make two small cuts in the skin on each side of your scrotum to reach the tubes)
  • No scalpel vasectomy (where they make a tiny puncture hole, no stitches required).

With both types, they remove a small section of the tubes, before closing them by tying them or using heat.

Vasectomy recovery and aftercare

The doctor or nurse should give you information about how to look after yourself in the weeks following your vasectomy. Men will normally have some mild discomfort and swelling after the operation – most can return to work within 1-2 days.

About 12 weeks after the operation, men should have a semen test to see if the sperm have gone. Once the vasectomy has been confirmed as successful, there is no need for additional contraception, unless you’re wanting protection from STI’s – then you’ll be needing to grab yourself some condoms.

Vasectomy reversal

Vasectomies are very difficult to reverse, so men need to consider all options and use other methods of contraception until they’re completely sure. Reversing a vasectomy involves re-joining the sperm-carrying tubes that were cut or blocked during your vasectomy, and success will depend upon how and when you were sterilised.

It’s possible to have it reversed, however this isn’t always successful and is very rarely funded by the NHS. You have a better chance if it’s done soon after the vasectomy. If a reversal is carried out within 10 years of your vasectomy, the success rate is about 55%, this falls to 25% if carried out more than 10 years after.

Male vasectomy VS female sterilisation

Sterilisation works by stopping the egg and the sperm meeting. In female sterilisation (tubal occlusion) this is done by cutting, sealing or blocking the fallopian tubes which carry an egg from the ovary to the uterus (womb). In male sterilisation this is done by cutting and sealing or tying the vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis). This is called vasectomy.

There is a risk that the sterilisation will not work, the tubes that carry the sperm in men and the eggs in women can re-join after sterilisation. This can happen immediately or some years after the operation has been carried out. However once done, sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception and is hard to reverse on both males and females. Both methods are safe and effective.

Pros and cons of a vasectomy

Pros

  • Doesn’t affect your sex drive
  • More than 99% effective
  • Long- term health effects are rare
  • Doesn’t affect hormones
  • A simpler and safer alternative to female sterilisation

Cons

  • Sometimes men have unprotected sex too soon after surgery and there is still sperm present in their semen.
  • About one in 2,000 male sterilisations fail – this can happen for a number of reasons, the tubes that carry the sperm can occasionally re-join after sterilisation, immediately or some years after the operation has been carried out. Very rarely there are surgical errors, and the procedure is not completed correctly.
  • Occasionally, some men have bleeding, a large swelling, or an infection. In this case, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • A small number of men experience ongoing pain in their testicles, scrotum, penis or lower abdomen. This is known as chronic post-vasectomy pain or CPVP. Drug treatments may be effective in easing the pain and some men require further surgery. It’s not always possible to relieve these symptoms permanently.

Where can I get a vasectomy?

Male vasectomies are available for free on the NHS, or as waiting lists can be long, some males chose to pay to have the procedure privately. There is the option to have a male doctor, however this may make the wait even longer. To find out more information on this speak to your GP or local contraception clinic.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

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