What is a Vasectomy?

Vasectomy is a permanent birth control method. It is a surgical operation in which the tubes carrying sperm from the testes (vas deferens) are severed to prevent sperm release when a man ejaculates. A safe method of male contraception, vasectomy can be reversed or undone when the need arises.

How is the vasectomy operation done?

A vasectomy is usually done in an outpatient surgery clinic or in a doctor’s office. A local anesthetic is administered before the operation. In a "normal" procedure, both ends of the vas deferens are cut and closed off with stitches, metal clamps, heat, or combination of these.

Vasectomy can also be done through a no-scalpel (keyhole) procedure, wherein a sharp hemostat, instead of a scalpel, is used in puncturing the scrotum. Both tubes are cauterized, tied off, or blocked. This does not require sutures.

An "open ended" procedure is a vasectomy method that may reduce the risk of chronic pain. Here, vasectomy only blocks the top end of the tube. With this method sperm is released from the tube’s lower severed and into the scrotum, therefore avoiding pressure build-up in the epididymis.

What are the side effects of vasectomy?

Like any surgical procedure, expect some some side effects after the operation. Serious complications are rare, however. One common side effect is pain, which should stop after a week. It is also normal to see bruising, swelling, and redness around the scrotum. However, you should seek medical advice if the swelling increases or becomes painful.

Sperm leakage into the scrotal tissues may result in inflammatory reactions and a benign lump (granuloma) may develop. This lump may be sensitive or painful to pressure or touch. You can treat this with anti-inflammatory agents. There is also a risk of epididymitis, which occurs when inflammation causes swelling of the epididymus.

In rare cases, decreased sexual desire or erectile dysfunction results from vasectomy. This can be in the form of painful intercourse, premature ejaculation, or impotence. This problem is largely psychological in nature. Counseling can resolve these difficulties.

How effective is vasectomy?

The man becomes sterile after vasectomy because it eliminates sperm from the seminal fluid. The testes still produces sperm, but the body absorbs them without ill effects. The man still ejaculates fluid like before, but with no sperm in it. This prevents pregnancy.

In rare cases, however, pregnancy may occur after a vasectomy procedure. In such cases, there might be a failure in the operation, the man might not be using other contraceptive methods in the 3 months after the operation, or there might be complications after the vasectomy. According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID) failure rates range from 0.2% to 0.4%.