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White sperm pattern on cyan blue background.
White sperm pattern on cyan blue background.

7 Surprising Facts About Vasectomies

A Urologist Shares Insights on the Male Birth Control Procedure

In the United States, about 500,000 vasectomies are performed each year. For those considering this surgical form of male birth control, there is a lot of information — and misinformation — out there. Vikas Desai, MD, a Northwestern Medicine urologist, who performs about 75 vasectomies each year, sorts through the facts to help you determine if the procedure is right for you:

  • The procedure only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. Vasectomies are quick, and most are done in a urologist's office as an outpatient procedure, meaning you can often go home on the same day. During the procedure, a urologist will cut the two small tubes (called vas deferens) that transport sperm. This prevents sperm from leaving your body and sperm is reabsorbed into your body. After your vasectomy, you will still ejaculate semen, the fluid your body creates to transport sperm, but there will be no sperm in it.
  • You are fully awake during the procedure. A local anesthetic, which numbs a small part of your body, is used and injected at the skin level directly into the vas deferens. Because you aren't put to sleep, you can safely drive yourself to and from your appointment. If you are anxious about the procedure, your urologist might prescribe diazepam (anti-anxiety medication); you will usually take it at home before your procedure. If you use an anti-anxiety medication like diazepam, you will need a designated driver to take you home from the procedure.
  • The procedure is minimally invasive, and pain is usually minimal. If you experience any pain after the procedure, you can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or apply an ice pack or frozen vegetables to the affected area. According to Dr. Desai, a bag of frozen peas and corn is best because it fits the shape of your body.
  • There isn't much down time. Within two to three days, you can return to work and your typical activities. Some people schedule their procedure in March for a reason to stay home and watch college basketball. It's known as "Vas Madness."
  • A vasectomy is nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. A vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of birth control. However, after a vasectomy, your sperm will need time to clear from the vas deferens. Your urologist will test your semen about 12 weeks after the procedure to ensure there is no sperm in it. Until then, use a backup form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. 
  • A vasectomy will not:
    • Affect your ability to have an orgasm or erection
    • Increase your risk of prostate or testicular cancer
    • Change your testosterone level
    • Prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • A vasectomy can be reversed, but it's a complex surgery. Before getting a vasectomy, make sure it is right for you. While reversal surgery is an option, it is a more complicated procedure and can be costly. In addition, the pregnancy success rate after a vasectomy reversal is between 30% to 70%. This range is influenced by many factors, including the amount of time between a vasectomy and reversal. The more time elapsed, the lower the chance of pregnancy.