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Is a vasectomy right for you?

A vasectomy is a safe and effective form of birth control. But it's also usually a permanent choice.

If you're certain that you don't want to have any more children, a vasectomy may be the right form of contraception for you and your partner.

A vasectomy is a relatively simple procedure that makes a man sterile. It's usually done in a urologist's office, and the patient can go home shortly after the surgery.

The operation is safe and effective. But it should also be considered permanent. Men who are considering a vasectomy should do so carefully.  

How it works

A vasectomy sterilizes a man by preventing sperm from mixing with semen during ejaculation. It does this by closing off the vas deferens, two tubes that the sperm move through during ejaculation. During the operation, the doctor may either tie the tubes or seal them with heat.

Highly effective

According to the American Pregnancy Association, about 1 out of 1,000 couples get pregnant during the first year after a vasectomy.

A vasectomy doesn't work right away, however. According to the American Urological Association, men may still have sperm in their semen three months after their procedure. So even after having a vasectomy, you'll need to continue using birth control until tests show that your semen is sperm-free.

The risks

After surgery you will probably need to rest for a day or two. But you should be completely recovered within a week.

The risk of side effects is very low but could include:

  • Infection or swelling.
  • Bleeding under the skin that causes swelling and bruising.
  • A sperm leak. Sperm leaking from the tubes into surrounding tissue could cause a small lump that in some cases needs to be surgically removed.

These problems are rare and are usually easily treated.

Life after a vasectomy

The only change a vasectomy should make in your life is that you will no longer be able to get a woman pregnant. You shouldn't notice any difference in your sex drive or your ability to have an erection. And having a vasectomy won't change any of your male traits, such as your ability to grow facial hair.

Another thing a vasectomy won't do is protect you from sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV—the virus that causes AIDS.

Before you decide

Before you make the decision, remember, the operation is usually permanent. While it's possible to have a vasectomy reversed, this is more difficult and costly. And reversing a vasectomy does not guarantee a pregnancy.

It's also possible to freeze sperm and store it in a sperm bank in case you want to have children later. But there's no guarantee that the sperm you store will successfully fertilize an egg in the future.

A vasectomy may be the right choice for a man who is in a relationship and:

  • Both partners agree that they don't want children or additional children.
  • One or both partners have genetic disorders that they don't want to pass on.
  • Is with a woman who has health problems that would make a pregnancy unsafe. 

If you find it difficult to decide, consider discussing your thoughts with your doctor.

Reviewed 3/15/2021

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