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    What is a vasectomy?

    On this page
    1. What happens during a vasectomy?
    2. What happens after a vasectomy?
    3. How effective is a vasectomy?
    4. Are vasectomies reversible?
    5. Does a vasectomy hurt?
    6. What are the side effects of a vasectomy?
    7. Can you ejaculate after a vasectomy? 
    8. What happens to sperm after a vasectomy?
    9. Can you get STIs if you have a vasectomy?
    10. Can you get a vasectomy on the NHS?

    Reviewed by our clinical team

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    The first thing to know is that there are several types of vasectomy, but they always involve the vas deferens – the tube that connects the testicles to the urethra. The urethra is the 'dual purpose' tube that carries either urine or semen out of the body.

    Cutting and sealing the vas deferens prevents sperm from leaving the body, which means you’ll be able to have sex with your partner without getting them pregnant. 

    What happens during a vasectomy?

    The procedure is normally done under local anaesthetic – in other words, you’ll be conscious and the doctor will just numb the area where the operation is being done.

    In the case of a vasectomy, the doctor will start by numbing the area; this means an injection into the skin of the scrotum (ball sack) just above each testicle. Then they’ll cut or puncture the scrotum on each side to access the vas deferens. Your doctor will then cut the vas deferens on each side, remove a small section, and then either tie the ends of the tubes or seal them with a clip or heat.

    If a scalpel was used to cut the skin of the scrotum, stitches will be needed, but they will usually dissolve all by themselves within a week. If the puncture method (also known as the "no-scalpel method") was used, no stitches are required.

    What happens after a vasectomy?

    After a vasectomy you’ll need to follow a few rules to ensure your body heals properly:

    • Take one or two days off work to recover 
    • Wear tight underwear or an athletic support – this will help support your scrotum while it heals 
    • Check with your doctor about the best way to wash your genitals 
    • Change your underwear every day and make sure you dry your genital area thoroughly but gently after washing 
    • Don’t do any hard exercise or heavy lifting for a week 
    • Avoid any kind of sexual activity for a week 
    • Use contraception for the first eight to 12 weeks after your vasectomy

    A few months after you’ve had your vasectomy, you’ll need a check-up to make sure the vasectomy has worked. You will be asked to provide a semen sample. If the sample is free of sperm, your vasectomy is considered successful and you and your partner can stop using contraception. A vasectomy does not protect you from STIs so you might still wish to use condoms.

    How effective is a vasectomy?

    Vasectomies are not 100% reliable, as it is possible for the vas deferens to reconnect. However, this is very rare. A vasectomy is considered to be over 99% effective.

    Are vasectomies reversible?

    It’s a common misconception that vasectomies are easy to reverse. Although it is possible to reconnect the vas deferens after it’s been cut and sealed, there’s no guarantee of success and it’s not something that’s usually funded on the NHS.

    The reversal procedure is more likely to be successful within the first 10 years of getting a vasectomy. After this, there’s only a 25% success rate

    Does a vasectomy hurt?

    Getting a vasectomy shouldn’t hurt, as it’s done under local anaesthetic. However, you might have some pain, discomfort and swelling. There will be quite a lot of bruising - so don't be alarmed. The 'no-scalpel' (keyhole) procedure tends to be more gentle.

    What are the side effects of a vasectomy?

    There aren’t “side effects” as such. Initially you might see some blood in your semen, and the bruising and swelling might look quite alarming. Because a vasectomy is permanent and success rates for vasectomy reversals are low (see above) you might feel distressed or even regret your decision to have had this done. 

    As with any medical procedure, a vasectomy can lead to complications, including infection, long-term pain in the testicles, and hard lumps called sperm granulomas. 

    Can you ejaculate after a vasectomy? 

    Yes, you will still be able to ejaculate after a vasectomy. Semen is made up of lots of different components, including liquids from the prostate gland, which means your body will still produce it even if it doesn’t contain sperm. The ejaculate will look, feel and taste more or less the same as before, although some men find that occasionally the fluid is a little thinner or that there is less of it. 

    What happens to sperm after a vasectomy?

    Your testicles will continue to make sperm, but they won’t be able to pass through the vas deferens and out of the urethra in the ejaculation fluid. Instead, they’ll be absorbed by the body.

    Can you get STIs if you have a vasectomy?

    Yes, you can get STIs and spread STIs even if you’ve had a vasectomy. Sexually transmitted infections are spread in bodily fluids like semen and blood, and through skin-to-skin contact.

    If you’re having sex with new or casual partners, you should use condoms to make sure you’re protected from STIs like chlamydia and HIV. 

    You can use our at-home STI test kits to get tested regularly. 

    Can you get a vasectomy on the NHS?

    Contraception is free on the NHS, which means you should be able to get your vasectomy for free. However, depending on where you live, there might be a long waiting list. 

    Looking for contraception?

    Visit our contraception service



    Authors and editors

    • Reviewed and updated by

      Dr Tatjana Street
      GMC number: 4569536
      Date reviewed: 19th November 2021

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