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Best for adult men who are certain they want to prevent future pregnancies, vasectomy is a permanent and very effective method of birth control. During a brief outpatient procedure, your doctor cuts the tube that carries sperm out of the testicles. When some time has elapsed after the vasectomy, an ejaculation contains no sperm and the man cannot impregnate a woman.
How vasectomy works
Sperm form in the testicles and are stored in an area called the epididymis. From there, they travel through tubes called the vas deferentia and mix with other body fluids to form semen. When each vas deferens is cut or blocked, this process is interrupted. The testicles still produce sperm, but it cannot travel through the penis during ejaculation and is simply reabsorbed by the body.
The procedure is usually done in an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office under local anesthesia and can take as little as 10 minutes. A small incision is made, and the two vas deferens tubes are either clipped shut or cut and the ends sealed. The surgery can also be done without a scalpel, using a special tool that eliminates the need for an incision.
After a vasectomy, some sperm still remain stored in the tube or vas deferens and can be ejaculated. Therefore, it is important to continue using other birth control for a time until your doctor does a follow-up test and verifies that your semen contains no sperm. Unless you have a zero sperm count, you could still cause your partner to become pregnant.
Vasectomy is a very low-risk procedure. Most men only require over-the-counter medications for pain afterward. The most common complications are bleeding, infection and testicular pain. All are uncommon, but testicular pain may rarely persist for weeks to months afterward and may require additional medical assistance. The risk of complications can be minimized by resting, applying cold packs, wearing a support and following all medical instructions.
Can a vasectomy be reversed?
Men are encouraged to consider vasectomy as permanent contraception. However, some men may change their minds and desire to be fertile again. Fortunately, vasectomy can be reversed surgically, and success rates are excellent in most cases. Microsurgical techniques are used to reconnect the vas deferens tubes so that sperm can once more move from the testicles into the semen. Vasectomy reversal has a success rate as high as 99 percent with pregnancy rates as high as 65 percent overall, depending on the surgery required. The highest chance of pregnancy occurs when the reversal surgery is performed within seven years of the initial vasectomy, but successful pregnancies have been achieved after 30 years or more. For more information, visit DrShep.com.
How effective is a vasectomy?
Vasectomy has a 99.85 percent success rate, which is very good. In addition, the few failures that do occur are usually because the couple does not use another birth control method during the first few months when sperm may still be present in the man’s semen. This is why it is important to have follow-up testing to verify that you have a zero sperm count.
Will a vasectomy affect my sex life?
No. Vasectomy does not change your ability to have and enjoy sex because it does not affect your body’s production of testosterone, the male hormone that primarily controls these functions. Plus, it does not alter the ejaculate volume. In fact, some couples find their sex lives improved because they no longer have to be concerned with an unwanted pregnancy.