What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a small operation to cut and tie off the vas deferens, or the tube running from the testes to the penis. This tube carries sperm from the testes, to the prostate where it is mixed with other fluid to become semen.After a vasectomy, the testes still make sperm but, after a period of time, the body breaks down and reabsorbs this sperm – this is a normal process which happens anyway if a man has not ejaculated for some time.

Vasectomy is a safe, reliable, permanent form of sterilisation, which is very reliable. It is usually performed when a couple wishes to stop using other forms of contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill, IUD or condoms, and do not want any more children.

Having a vasectomy does not increase the risk of getting prostate cancer later in life and there is also no increased risk of testicular cancer.

How is a vasectomy performed?

Vasectomy is performed under local anaesthetic and is a ‘no-scalpel’ procedure in which a small sharp pointed instrument is used to pierce the skin. This technique has less risk of bleeding than if the skin was cut with a scalpel. The risks of any operation are pain, swelling, bleeding or bruising, and infection. Swelling will occur and takes a few days to a few weeks to go down.

Can I have unprotected sex straight away?

You cannot have unprotected sex straightaway as the sperm lives downstream from where the vas deferens has been tied off. This sperm takes many months to die or be ejaculated out of the system so you will need to do at least two semen tests after your surgery to confirm your sterility. Until you have two negative tests, you need to keep using another contraception method.

Vasectomy Reversal

Reversal is not always successful, is expensive and needs a general anaesthetic. Under 5 years post vasectomy the success rate is high (approximately 75%), lower if 5-10 years (50%) and less than 20% after 10 years. Given that life does change and a reversal after 10 years is usually unsuccessful, a vasectomy is probably not the best contraceptive choice for people under the age of 30, unless your partner has health issues which make having children a major problem.

The success of a vasectomy reversal is dependent on a number of factors such as length of time since the vasectomy operation, the amount of damage caused at the time of the vasectomy, how close to the testicle that the vasectomy was performed and the skill of the surgeon.