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 getting into a man’s semen which is then ejaculated during sexual intercourse. The procedure is usually done under local anaesthetic, when you’re awake but don’t feel any pain, and takes about 15 minutes.
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 have one.
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) and the ‘no scalpel’ vasectomy (where they make a tiny puncture hole, no stitches required). The doctor seals the tubes by tying them, using heat or applying stitches or plugs. Sometimes a small section of the tubes is removed.
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. Sometimes more than one test is needed. During this time additional contraception should be used.
Once the vasectomy has been confirmed as successful, there is no need for additional contraception.
How to stop
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 rejoining the sperm-carrying tubes that were cut or blocked during your vasectomy, and success will depend upon how and when you were sterilised. Vasectomy reversals are not normally performed on the NHS.
Things that can go wrong
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 rejoin 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 after the procedure 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.