A vasectomy is a simple surgical procedure, also called sterilisation, to provide reliable contraception for men who do not want to father children in the future. If opting for a vasectomy, it should be considered a permanent form of contraception, as although it can be reversed, reversal is a complicated procedure that doesn't always work.
What is a vasectomy?
The tube through which sperm travel from the testes (where sperm are made) to the penis is known as the vas deferens. During a vasectomy, the tube is cut, blocked or sealed with heat, so the sperm can no longer travel through the tube. The procedure is performed in one of two ways:
- Conventional vasectomy: Two 1cm-long incisions are made in the scrotum, one on each side, and then a small section of the vas deferens is cut and removed. The ends of the tubes are tied closed or sealed with heat using a diathermy (a tool that can provide heat at a very high temperature); dissolvable stitches are used to sew up the incisions and they disappear in about a week.
- No-scalpel vasectomy: The surgeon finds the vas deferens underneath the skin of the scrotum and holds them in place with a small clamp. A special tool is used to make a tiny hole in the skin, and special forceps are used to hold the hole open while the surgeon cuts and seals the vas deferens as in a conventional vasectomy.
A no-scalpel vasectomy is thought to be less painful than a conventional vasectomy, there are no stitches involved and there is less bleeding. There are also fewer early complications such as infection.
A vasectomy is a relatively painless procedure usually done under local anaesthetic. The procedure normally takes only about 30 minutes, or 15 minutes for the no-scalpel procedure, and may be done in your GP's surgery, a hospital or a private clinic. Most men go home the same day.
What happens to the sperm after a vasectomy?
The testes continue to make sperm, but as the vas deferens is blocked, the sperm are simply absorbed by the body.
Will my sex drive be affected?
Because the sex hormones such as testosterone continue to be made by the testes and pass into the bloodstream, the answer is no. You'll still produce roughly the same amount of semen during ejaculation (sperm are so small they barely affect the volume of semen). In fact, sex can be more pleasurable because contraception does not need to be an issue.
How reliable is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a very reliable method of contraception. However, one in every 1,000 operations is a failure, with test results showing sperm still present in semen after the procedure. In rare cases about one in 2,000 men with a successful vasectomy will not remain infertile because the severed ends of the vas deferens eventually join together again.