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Vasectomy (bilateral)

A vasectomy is a surgery used as a permanent method of birth control for males

Doctor with anatomical model of a sperm cell explains the bilateral vasectomy procedure
A vasectomy is a type of surgery performed on men to make them sterile (unable to father a child). It is used as a type of permanent contraception (birth control).

During a vasectomy, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are cut or sealed, preventing sperm from being ejaculated during sexual intercourse and therefore preventing pregnancy in the female. You might hear it called a 'bilateral' vasectomy, which simply means that the operation is performed on both testicles.

Our consultant urological surgeons are highly experienced in performing vasectomy operations and will guide you compassionately through the process from start to finish. Call or book online today to arrange and appointment with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group.

The main benefit of a vasectomy is that you and your partner do not have to use any other types of contraception to prevent pregnancy. It is a good choice for couples whose families are complete, or for those who are sure they don't want children.

A vasectomy is considered a permanent method of birth control. The surgery can sometimes be reversed, but this can be expensive, and there is no guarantee that it will work. A vasectomy is only recommended if you are sure you don't want to father a child in the future.

Some other advantages of having a vasectomy include:

  • The procedure is quick, and safe with a low risk of complications when compared to female sterilisation surgery
  • A vasectomy is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
  • It doesn’t affect your libido (sex drive) or hormone levels, or interfere with your ability to have sex

If a vasectomy isn't right for you, there are many alternative methods of birth control available. Alternative methods of birth control for men include:

  • Male condoms - a sheath is placed over the penis before sex to prevent sperm from entering the woman's body

Alternative methods of birth control for women include:

  • Female sterilisation (tubal ligation) - a permanent form of birth control where a woman's fallopian tubes are cut or blocked
  • Female condoms - a sheath placed inside the vagina to prevent sperm from entering the womb
  • The contraceptive pill - a hormonal pill taken every day to prevent pregnancy
  • Contraceptive injections - a hormonal injection given every twelve weeks to prevent pregnancy
  • Contraceptive implants - an implant worn just under the skin that releases hormones slowly into the body to prevent pregnancy
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) - a small t-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus. It can be hormonal or non-hormonal

Talk to your GP or a sexual health specialist about which method of contraception may be best for you and your partner.

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant urologist, a doctor specialising in conditions affecting the urinary system.

Your consultant will ask you some questions about your reasons for wanting a vasectomy as well as your general health and medical history. They will explain what happens during the procedure, including all the possible risks and complications, and what to expect afterwards. You and your partner may be offered counselling to ensure that you are fully aware of the implications of having a vasectomy and that it is the right decision for you.

At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it’s where we get to know you, discuss your expectations for treatment and encourage you to ask any questions you may have. It is important to us that you are as well-informed and comfortable as possible before, during, and after your procedure, so please ask your consultant any questions you may have.

At the end of your appointment, your consultant will decide if a vasectomy is right for you based on your reasons for wanting the procedure, your general health, and medical history.

Your consultant will tell you everything you need to do to prepare for your surgery. If there's anything you're not sure about, or if you have any questions about how to prepare for your surgery, speak to your consultant or call the hospital for advice. Being well prepared for your surgery will help to ease any anxiety you may have as well as allow your surgery and recovery to go more smoothly.

Before your surgery, tell your consultant about any medical conditions or allergies you have and any medication, including over-the-counter medicines you are taking. You might need to stop taking some medications like blood thinners before your operation. This is to reduce the risk of bleeding during and after your surgery.

You may be asked to shave your scrotum the night before your vasectomy. Your consultant will give you instructions on how to do this safely. You may eat a light snack and drink liquids before your vasectomy but avoid eating a heavy meal or drinking alcohol.

Take a bath or shower before coming to the hospital on the day of your surgery. Bring supportive underwear such as a jockstrap, or tight cotton jockey-type underpants to the hospital to wear after your vasectomy.

What lifestyle changes can I make before my surgery?

Being in optimal health before your surgery can reduce the risk of complications and speed up your recovery.

To make sure you are as healthy as possible before your surgery:

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains
  • If you smoke, try to stop at least eight weeks before your surgery
  • Avoid alcohol for a few days before and after your surgery. Alcohol thins the blood and can increase the risk of bleeding
  • Take regular exercise

A vasectomy is usually performed under local anaesthetic. This means you'll be awake for the procedure, but you will be given medication to numb the area and won't feel any pain. In some cases, your vasectomy may be done under general anaesthetic, in which case you will be asleep throughout.

A vasectomy can be performed in one of two ways:

  • Conventional vasectomy
  • No scalpel vasectomy

A vasectomy normally takes around 20 minutes.

Conventional vasectomy

  1. After numbing the area with a local anaesthetic, your consultant will make two small incisions, one on either side of your scrotum
  2. The tubes that carry sperm from your testicles (vas deferens) are located and cut and a small section of the tube is removed
  3. The tubes are either tied or sealed with heat (cauterised)
  4. The incisions are closed using dissolvable stitches

No-scalpel vasectomy

  1. After numbing the area with a local anaesthetic, your consultant makes a small puncture hole in the centre of your scrotum
  2. The tubes that carry sperm from your testicles are located and lifted out of your scrotum through the puncture hole
  3. The tubes are cut and either tied or sealed with heat (cauterised)
  4. The tubes are placed back inside the scrotum
  5. No stitches are required after a no-scalpel vasectomy and the puncture hole is left to heal on its own

Recovery from any type of surgery is different for everyone and depends on factors such as your age, general health and whether or not there were any complications during your surgery.

Your consultant will be able to give you an estimated recovery timeline based on your individual circumstances.

You may feel mild pain or discomfort when the anaesthetic wears off after your vasectomy. Take over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen if you need to.

Your scrotum may be swollen and bruised for a few days after your vasectomy. Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth for five to ten minutes a few times a day can help relieve swelling. Never apply ice directly to your skin.

You may notice blood when you ejaculate the first few times after your vasectomy. This is normal and nothing to worry about.

Wear tight-fitting underwear for the first few days after your surgery. This supports your scrotum and helps to ease any discomfort or swelling.

You can take a shower after your vasectomy. Make sure you keep your scrotum clean and dry after your surgery.

How many nights will I need to stay in hospital?

A vasectomy is performed as a day-case procedure and does not normally require a stay in hospital.

Will I be able to drive home?

You should not drive yourself home from the hospital after your vasectomy. You may feel lightheaded and have some pain after your surgery that could distract you and your insurance may be invalid if you have an accident. Please make arrangements for someone to come and collect you, or we can organise a taxi if you prefer, though it's always good to have someone to look after you when you get home.

How soon can I go back to work?

How soon you can go back to work after your vasectomy depends on how you feel after your procedure and on the type of job you do. Most people return to work around two days after a vasectomy, but some will need longer.

Even if you go back to work after two days, you should avoid strenuous activity, exercise like running or riding a bicycle, and heavy lifting for at least a week after your surgery.

How soon can I drive?

You can drive when you can sit comfortably, safely control your vehicle, and perform an emergency stop without pain. Most people can drive within a few days of having a vasectomy, but you should speak to your insurance provider to check when they are happy for you to get back behind the wheel.

When can I have sex after my vasectomy?

You should not have sex for at least a week after your vasectomy. After this, you'll need to use another method of birth control until there are no sperm remaining in your semen.

You will need to provide a semen sample to be checked for sperm around eight to twelve weeks after your vasectomy. In some cases, you may need to provide a second sample. When your samples have been confirmed as containing no sperm, you and your partner no longer need to use another form of contraception.

When will I be back to normal?

A vasectomy is a relatively minor procedure, and the recovery time is usually quick. Most men are able to resume normal activities within a few days to a week. You will need to wait at least a week before engaging in strenuous activity and heavy lifting.

As with all types of surgery, a vasectomy carries a small risk of complications. Your consultant will explain all the possible risks and complications before your surgery and answer any questions you may have about your procedure. Being as well-informed as possible about what to expect from your surgery will help put your mind at rest and allow you to make an informed decision so please ask any questions you may have.

Possible complications of any surgery include:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Adverse reactions to the anaesthetic

Possible complications specific to vasectomy include:

  • Haematoma - a collection of blood may develop and form a clot in the scrotum after a vasectomy. In some cases, this may cause pain and swelling, and surgery may be required to remove it
  • Infection - is treated with antibiotics
  • Sperm granuloma - a small hard lump may develop in your testicle due to leakage of sperm after a vasectomy. In some cases, this may be painful. The lump isn't dangerous and is usually reabsorbed by your body
  • Long-term testicular pain - occurs in 1 to 2% of patients who have had a vasectomy, though the reasons are unclear
  • The operation may fail - rarely, the cut ends of the tubes can re-join meaning your partner can get pregnant again

We answer some of your most commonly asked questions about vasectomy.

What is a bilateral vasectomy?

A bilateral vasectomy is a vasectomy where both tubes (the vas deferens) that take sperm from your testicles to your penis are cut. Bilateral vasectomy is the normal method of performing vasectomy and is necessary to prevent future pregnancies in men with two testicles.

Can a vasectomy be reversed?

Most vasectomies can be reversed, but a vasectomy reversal is no guarantee that you will go on to father a child. The longer it has been since your vasectomy, the less chance there is of the vasectomy reversal being successful.

What is the difference between a bilateral and unilateral vasectomy?

During a bilateral vasectomy, both tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are cut. During a unilateral vasectomy, only one tube is cut. Unilateral vasectomies do not prevent pregnancy as sperm can still travel to the penis through the uncut tube.

Does a vasectomy affect my sex drive?

No. Your hormone levels and sex drive are unaffected after a vasectomy.

Can you still orgasm (come) after a vasectomy?

You can still orgasm and ejaculate after a vasectomy. The only difference is that your semen (the fluid that leaves your penis during ejaculation) does not contain any sperm.

Can a vasectomy fail?

In very rare cases, a vasectomy may not work, and the cut tubes can reconnect after the surgery. This is extremely rare and only happens in about 0.025% of cases. Re-connection may occur many years after your vasectomy.

How painful is a vasectomy?

During your vasectomy, you will be given a local anaesthetic and won't feel any pain. You may feel a small pinch as the anaesthetic injection is given and a tugging or pulling sensation in your scrotum as the surgery is performed. When the anaesthetic has worn off, you may experience mild pain or discomfort for a few days. Over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen are usually enough to help with this.

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about having a vasectomy, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in April 2023. Next review due April 2026.

  1. Vasectomy (male sterilisation), NHS
  2. Vasectomy, Urology Care Foundation
  3. Vasectomy, NIH
  4. Review of Vasectomy Complications and Safety Concerns, PubMed

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