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Vasectomy – the permanent contraceptive method for men

Eleonore Bridier Contraception

In Australia, over 25,000 men undergo a vasectomy every year, making it one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures. It offers men who have already had children or decided not to have children a highly effective and safe method of permanent contraception. In the following, we explain what happens during and after a vasectomy and address some of the concerns that you may have about the procedure.

What does a vasectomy involve?

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that makes a man sterile by sealing off the tubes (vas deferens) that transport sperm from the testicles to the penis. There are two main types of vasectomy procedure: scalpel (or incision) vasectomy and no scalpel vasectomy, which are terms used to describe how the vas tubes are accessed. In a no scalpel vasectomy, specially-developed forceps or a kind of needle is used to more precisely and delicately access the vas tubes.

An open-ended vasectomy refers to a different method of cutting and blocking the vas tubes. With this type of procedure only one end of the tubes, rather than both ends, is blocked after cutting. The testicular end is left open allowing seminal fluid to flow into a small layer of tissue within the scrotal sac that is fixed in place by fine suturing – a process allowing the body to reabsorb this fluid naturally.

A vasectomy is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. Depending on the type of vasectomy procedure, the whole procedure takes less than 30 minutes. A longer recovery time is required if the procedure is carried out under twilight (intravenous) sedation or general anaesthetic.

Generally, there is very little pain involved with a vasectomy and with a local anaesthetic you will only feel a small pin-prick from the needle, followed by numbness in the region. Following the vasectomy, you’ll have a small scar on your scrotum that will lessen over time, and you may feel some discomfort for a few days. This can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication and a cold pack.

Will I have to take time off work?

You will be able to return to work the day after their procedure, as long as you are not in a physical profession involving heavy lifting. It is very important you follow the doctor’s advice on returning to normal physical activities. As a guide, you can return to sexual activity one week after a vasectomy. Keep in mind that the quicker and harder you push yourself in the first 3-4 weeks post-procedure, the more likely you are to experience complications. It’s important to give your body time to heal.

How safe is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a very safe surgical procedure but, as with any surgery, there are risks. Prior to the surgery your doctor will discuss any potential complications and side-effects with you. It is very important that you seek medical attention or contact our 24-hour aftercare nurses if you experience complications such as swelling or excessive bruising.

The most common complications are the risk of infection (0.2–1.5%), and bleeding and haematoma, which can occur in 4 – 22% of cases.1 Generally, infections are mild and limited to the wound site.

Open-ended no scalpel vasectomy has been shown to reduce the incidence of inflammation related complications and is likely to result in less post-operative discomfort. 2 3

While there has been some speculation about a link between a vasectomy and prostate or testicular cancer, there is no evidence supporting this. As part of any normal sexual health routine, however, we do advise you be aware of what is normal for you and see your doctor if you see or feel any changes in your testicles. 4

Will a vasectomy affect my sex life?

A vasectomy should not impact on your sex drive or ability to orgasm and ejaculate, and therefore will not affect your sex life. In fact, many couples report that their sex life improves after a vasectomy, as they do not have to worry about the risks of an unplanned pregnancy.

It is important, however, that you use an additional form of contraception for at least the first three months following the surgery, as some sperm will remain in the vas deferens above the blockage until it is gradually cleared during ejaculation.

At around three months after your vasectomy you will need to supply a semen sample to establish that no sperm is present. And, while you may be given clearance at this time to cease using other method of contraception, it is important to know that there is a very small chance (much less than 0.1%) that failure may still occur. No method of contraception is 100% effective but vasectomy is one of the most effective options available.

Importantly, while vasectomy is a very effective form of permanent contraception for men, it does not protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). If you are unsure about the sexual history of your partner, you should always also use a condom during sex.

Can a vasectomy be reversed?

Vasectomy is a permanent form of contraception and should not be undertaken if you are in any doubt about the decision, as there is no guarantee that it can successfully be reversed. If you are certain that you have completed your family or that you do not want to have children, then vasectomy is a safe and effective method of contraception for you to consider.

Vasectomy at Dr Marie

Dr Marie clinics provide specialist scalpel and open-ended no scalpel vasectomy services in a safe and supportive environment. Prior to the surgery, you will have a consultation with a nurse or doctor to talk about the procedure, discuss any concerns and answer any questions you may have. Partners are also very welcome to attend this initial consultation.

The vasectomy procedure itself only takes between 15 – 30 minutes. Following the procedure, we provide you with an information pack to take home with you, containing aftercare instructions and advice. If you have any concerns following your vasectomy, you can call Dr Marie’s free 24-hour aftercare service at any time.

For more information and to make an appointment, please follow the links below.

Sources and references

1 Dohle GR, et al. European Association of Urology Guidelines on Vasectomy. Eur Urol (2011), doi:10.1016

2 Labrecque M, Dufresne C, Barone MA, St-Hilaire K. Vasectomy surgical techniques: a systematic review. BMC Med 2004;2:21.

3 Cook LA, Van Vliet H, Lopez LM, Pun A, Gallo MF. Vasectomy occlusion techniques for male sterilization. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007, CD003991.

4 Cancer Council, Reducing Your Risks: Get Checked Men