Every year, millions of people in the United States have a vasectomy. The procedure is quick, safe, and usually only requires local anesthesia. Most males will experience pain for a few days after the procedure.
Vasectomies work as a form of birth control by blocking the vas deferens. This is the tube that carries sperm into the semen. Blocking this tube could involve cutting it or applying a clip to one or both ends.
In this article, we take a look at how people recover after having a vasectomy. We also examine what people can expect from the procedure itself.
Most people experience pain and aching in their groin immediately after a vasectomy. The scrotum may also feel swollen and sensitive to touch.
Some people notice a lump in the scrotum. The lump, or granuloma, occurs from sperm leaking out of the vas deferens and into the scrotum. It is harmless and usually disappears over time.
Unless there are complications, most people go home immediately after the procedure.
Most people need about a week to recover from a vasectomy. Doctors will prescribe pain medication to make the recovery more comfortable. Some people wear a jockstrap to support the area and reduce the risk of friction and injury.
Most people go back to work within a day of the procedure. They can usually return to most daily activities without any issues, including driving. However, it is crucial to avoid sex and other strenuous activities for about a week, or until the pain reduces.
It can take up to 3 months to become fully sterile following a vasectomy.
It can be helpful to discuss the vasectomy with a doctor before the procedure.
Some things to do before the procedure include:
- talking to a doctor about any medications and allergies
- avoiding aspirin for 7 days before surgery, as aspirin can cause bleeding
- discussing any feelings of anxiety with a doctor, who may suggest anti-anxiety medication
- wearing comfortable clothing on the day of the procedure
- taking a jockstrap or other gear that supports the scrotum to wear immediately after the procedure
- arranging transport home in advance
A doctor may trim the hair on the scrotum before the procedure. To avoid this, keep the hair on the scrotum as short as possible.
Most people experience swelling and pain for a week or two after surgery. Some individuals may bleed more than others or develop an infection. Sometimes, these people may require additional treatment or surgery.
Less common complications of vasectomy include:
- Vasectomy failure: This happens when sperm still gets into semen. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this is rare, occurring in about 11 in 1,000 people within 2 years.
- Regret: Some people may regret their vasectomy, especially when starting a new partnership with someone who wants a child. However, most vasectomies are reversible.
- Chronic pain: Some people experience chronic testicle pain after a vasectomy, but this is rare. Between 1% and 2% of people who have a vasectomy get chronic pain.
- Granuloma: A granuloma is a harmless lump that forms on the scrotum. It occurs when sperm leaks out of the vas deferens.
In deciding whether to have a vasectomy or not, it might help to consider that the equivalent procedure in females is riskier.
Tubal ligation involves blocking the fallopian tubes to stop eggs moving into the uterus. Experts think that a vasectomy is a safer procedure than tubal ligation. Tubal ligation also requires general anesthesia, rather than the local anesthetic required for a vasectomy. General anesthesia increases the risk of complications and recovery times.
People who have tubal ligation face a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy if the procedure fails. This is where the fertilized egg grows outside of the womb. A vasectomy does not increase this risk.
There is no evidence that vasectomies cause long term complications or increase the risk of any disease or illness.
Vasectomy is one of the most effective procedures for birth control. The risk of pregnancy occurring after a vasectomy is around 11 in 1,000. The risk of pregnancy is higher shortly after the vasectomy. This is because it takes about 3 months for sperm to leave the semen completely.
Recanalization can also occur. This is where the sperm travels beyond the cut in the vas deferens and makes it back into the semen. Recanalization is also more common in the 3 months following the vasectomy.
About 3 months after surgery, a doctor will perform tests to measure sperm levels in the semen.
Vasectomies should not affect sexual function.
A vasectomy will not interfere with the production of testosterone or any other chemical associated with sexual functioning. A man can still ejaculate after a vasectomy but the semen will not contain any sperm.
Vasectomies do not lead to changes in orgasms or sexual sensations. However, people who had complications following their vasectomy might experience pain during sex. People who experience any pain should talk to a doctor for help and advice.
In very rare cases, a vasectomy may damage the arteries or nerves of the scrotum. If this happens, it can affect sexual functioning. Some people may require additional surgeries to correct the problem.
For most people, vasectomies are a safe and effective form of birth control.
Before choosing to have a vasectomy, a person must be sure about not wanting more children. Most vasectomies are reversible. But doctors cannot always guarantee success.
Avoid making the decision alone. It is best to talk about the procedure with a partner or family members. A doctor will be able to offer professional and medical advice.
People who experience long recoveries or pain following a vasectomy should contact a doctor immediately. Doctors can treat post-vasectomy pain, and healing will happen more quickly with prompt care.