A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that sterilises a man. It prevents him fathering children. A vasectomy doesn't change a man's sexual desire or his ability to reach orgasm. It won't stop the production of semen. A vasectomy can sometimes be reversed but it is generally permanent.
A vasectomy is a highly effective form of contraception. The chances of pregnancy after the procedure is around 1 in 1,000. If there is any chance you may want children later, you can ask to have some sperm frozen. Talk to your doctor before arranging the procedure.
The vasectomy procedure
A vasectomy takes 20 to 40 minutes. It can be carried out under local, light or general anaesthetic. A vasectomy cuts the vas deferens, which are the tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the penis. After the procedure, you will still be able to ejaculate but the sperm that are produced will be reabsorbed by the body.
What to expect after a vasectomy
You will have pain and swelling in the groin or scrotum, and probably some bruising.
It is important to rest for a few days and avoid heavy lifting to ease the pain and swelling. Painkillers, supportive underwear or ice packs can also help.
Your doctor will give you information about care of the wound and when you can resume sexual activity.
How soon will a vasectomy work?
A vasectomy does not work immediately. It can take several months and up to 20 ejaculations to clear the sperm in the vas deferens after the procedure. A semen test 3 months after the procedure will determine if it is safe to stop using other forms of contraception.
A very small proportion of vasectomies fail. This is why it is important to use contraception until a semen test is clear.
Reversing a vasectomy
A vasectomy is generally permanent. Sometimes it is possible to re-join the vas tubes, but this does not guarantee the man will be able to produce another child. The chances of success decrease with time after the procedure.
Retrieving sperm directly from the testes for use with assisted reproductive techniques, such as IVF, may be an option for men who have had a vasectomy and then decide they would like to father children.
Your doctor is available to discuss your fertility options. You can also read more about other forms of contraception.
Last reviewed: December 2017