A vasectomy is a surgical procedure in which the vas deferens is cut, rendering a male infertile. Dr Joe Kosterich talks about reasons for having a vasectomy, what happens during a vasectomy, side effects, its effect on sex life, and the reversibility of the procedure.

Today we are going to talk about vasectomies (treatment page).

A vasectomy is when the vas deferens is cut – the vas deferens is the tube (in males) that runs from the testes where sperm is produced, up into the body around through the prostate and then to the urethra, which is the tube that runs out through the penis. Essentially it carries the sperm from the testes through to the outside world. When the vas deferens is cut it means that the sperm cannot get through, essentially meaning that men who have had a vasectomy are not going to have any more children because the sperm is not going to be ejaculated out.

A few things with vasectomy, firstly who would contemplate having a vasectomy? Sounds obvious but it is men who do not want to have any more children. There are possibilities to reverse vasectomy and we will touch on that later but if you are having it done it should be not because you’re thinking about having it undone later, but because you really don’t want any more children.

A vasectomy is a simple procedure, for virtually all men it can be done under a local anaesthetic which means you go into hospital in the morning and come out an hour or two later. You don’t need to have a general anaesthetic, you can be back at work that afternoon if you want to but it might be better to have the rest of the day off.

Side affects from a vasectomy: some people will find they’re a little bit sore as with any procedure and there can be some bruising as well, but they are fairly minor. It does not affect sex drive and it does not affect the capacity to get or maintain an erection. And this is a really important point: all a vasectomy does is stop the sperm from getting through. Men sometimes ask: does that mean that I won’t be ejaculating? It does not mean that either because there is fluid produced in the prostate that the sperm travel in, that fluid is still produced and is downstream from where the vasectomy is done. So again, following a vasectomy you are still able to have sex, sex drive is not affected and there is still ejaculation.

Now, from the time the procedure is done you generally need to allow about three months for any sperm that might be in the system to come through. This is very conservative but it is the recommendation and for good reasons. After three months you will be advised to have a sperm count done and if that shows zero sperm count then you can stop using other forms of contraception, which you will be advised to use for those first three months.

We spoke earlier about the reversal of a vasectomy, this is something that has improved considerably over the years – 10 to 15 years ago it was virtually non existent, if you had a vasectomy that was it, there was no going back. Now I did emphasise before that the procedure should not be done if you are thinking already that you might want to have it undone, but circumstances do change. Particularly in the 21st century, people’s personal circumstances may well change for reasons sometimes beyond their control and you may be looking at a reversal. The success rates with this are much higher than before – they are getting up to 60/70%, it is much more major surgery though. This does need to be done under a general anaesthetic and you may be laid up for a slightly longer period of time, but the success rates are getting better.

Bottom line with a vasectomy is that it is a fairly simple procedure; again it is something you should be doing because you really don’t want to be having anymore children. You will be up and about pretty promptly after you have had it done and you will need to have a sperm count three months post procedure and then away you go. Everything else will continue pretty much as normal.

To sum up, vasectomy: very simple procedure. Does and should be seen as a permanent procedure. You’ll be up and about fairly quickly, same day as I said before. And 3 months after the procedure you’ll need to do a sperm count, following which you can dispense with other forms of contraception. Aside from – if you like – putting a “block in the plumbing”, everything else continues exactly as it did before.

More information on having a vasectomy, its benefits and risks

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