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scissors cutting the letter v from the word vasectomy
By In-house Team, Circle Health Group

What is a vasectomy?

Why do people choose to have a vasectomy? What does it involve and what's the recovery like? We answer the key questions about what it's really like having a vasectomy

Many men explore the option of a vasectomy as a form of contraception. The procedure is very effective and is done using minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery, meaning your doctor won't make any large cuts in your skin when carrying it out. It also means that the recovery period for a vasectomy is relatively fast.

A vasectomy (also commonly referred to as male sterilisation) is a surgical procedure to cut or seal the tubes that carry your sperm into your semen. This means there won't be sperm in your ejaculate, and the operation is typically performed to prevent pregnancy. It is a very common procedure that usually takes only 20 minutes to perform. According to the NHS, a vasectomy is more than 99% effective. Out of 2,000 sterilised men, only one will conceive during the rest of his lifetime.

If you're considering a vasectomy and what to understand more about it, then you've landed in the right place. We share all the critical information you need to know about having a vasectomy and what it entails.

One of the best things about having a vasectomy is how short the recovery period is.

What does a vasectomy involve?

There are two main ways to perform a vasectomy. It is usually performed by a urologist, which is a doctor that specialises in treating the male urinary tract and reproductive system.

A vasectomy involves cutting the vas deferens (tubes from each testicle that carry sperm from your testicles to your penis). This prevents the sperm from mixing with semen. Most vasectomies are performed under local anaesthetic, which will be injected into the area where your doctor will make a small incision (cut) to perform the surgery. It is generally painless, but you might feel a small amount of discomfort and swelling after (this is very manageable).

If the procedure is performed with local anaesthetic, you will be awake but the area operated on will be numbed. If it is performed under general anaesthetic, which is far less common because having a vasectomy is a very straightforward and minimally invasive procedure, you will be asleep.

A vasectomy can be carried out in various ways, with the two most common methods being:

A non-scalpel vasectomy

This is carried out under local anaesthetic and has become the most popular approach to vasectomy. Your doctor will feel for your vas deferens underneath the skin of your scrotum and hold these in place using a small clamp (this won't feel pressured or painful). They will then use a specialist instrument to make a tiny hole in the skin of your scrotum to access the vas deferens without using a scalpel to cut your skin. They will then tie or seal your vas deferens using heat. There will be no bleeding or stitches and the procedure is generally painless with very few complications.

A conventional vasectomy

This is also performed under local anaesthetic, but involves two small cuts (around 1cm long) made across each side of your scrotum. This is how your surgeon will access your vas deferens. Each tube will be cut and a small section removed using a specialist instrument. The ends of the tubes will be tied and sealed with heat. The cuts will be closed with stitches - these are usually dissolvable so will typically disappear within a week or so.

Your consultant will discuss these two options with you, what happens during each of these vasectomies, and which surgery would be the best fit for you.

Does a vasectomy hurt?

You could experience some discomfort, swelling and bruising on your scrotum for a couple of days after your vasectomy. But you can take painkillers to help minimise any pain you feel.


Your vasectomy recovery

One of the best things about having a vasectomy is how short the recovery period is. It's not unusual to have a bit of mild discomfort, swelling and bruising across your scrotum for a few days after surgery. You can take painkillers to manage these symptoms. It is also quite common to have blood in your semen in the first few ejaculations after a vasectomy, but this is nothing to be worried about and perfectly normal.

You can be back to work within two days after the operation but will need to avoid high impact sport or heavy lifting for at least one week to reduce the risk of any complications. After a week you can be back to your usual highly active self, performing whichever sport and daily activities you wish.

We recommend wearing close-fitted underwear, like Y-fronts, during the first week of your recovery to support your scrotum and help with any pain or swelling. Remember to keep your genital area well washed and dried after surgery to maintain personal hygiene and prevent any infection to the area operated on.

Can you have sex after a vasectomy?

Fortunately, a vasectomy does not impact your libido (sex drive). You can still ejaculate and enjoy sex.

You can have sex as soon as you feel comfortable, but it's best to wait a couple of days.

Although a vasectomy is 99% effective against pregnancy, it can take up to 12 weeks for your tubes to be free of any remaining sperm. We suggest using an alternative form of contraception for the first eight to 12 weeks after surgery to avoid the risk of pregnancy.

According to Stanford Health Care, the effectiveness of a vasectomy reversal is up to 90-95%.

Can you have a baby after a vasectomy?

While the procedure is generally referred to as permanent, it can be reversed under certain circumstances. During a vasectomy reversal, your surgeon reconnects each tube that carries your sperm. According to Stanford Health Care, the effectiveness of a vasectomy reversal is up to 90-95%.

Is a vasectomy reversal effective?

You might decide to have a vasectomy reversal after you have the original procedure, which is okay. Changes in your circumstances might mean you do want to have children even though you previously felt you didn't.

The procedure is safe and generally effective, but this depends on the fertility of you and your partner. The success rate also lowers as the time since your vasectomy increases.

Find out more about having a vasectomy

For more information on having a vasectomy, all or book online to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced consultant urologists. We often have appointments available within a couple of days.

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If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on this subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Circle Hospital.