A vasectomy is a type of permanent sterilization that prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from entering the semen. The procedure involves cutting or blocking the vas deferens — the two tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra.
It is a very effective form of male contraception but is not 100% reliable. Approximately 1–2 out of every 1,000 women still get pregnant in the year following their partner’s vasectomy.
Although the procedure is safe, some people may experience pain and other issues afterward.
In this article, we look at a vasectomy in more detail, including common side effects, risks and complications, recovery, and when to see a doctor.
Short-term side effects
It is advisable to abstain from sex for at least a week following a vasectomy.
Below, we list some common side effects of a vasectomy procedure.
Immediately following a vasectomy, a person may feel tenderness, pain, or pressure in the scrotum or pelvic area.
A person should abstain from sex until the pain goes away, which is usually after about a week.
Some people develop an infection at the site of the surgical procedure. The infection can cause intense pain and swelling.
Doctors can prescribe antibiotics to treat the symptoms of a bacterial infection.
Excessive bleeding during or after surgery can increase pain and may make additional treatment necessary.
It usually takes about 3 months for the semen to be completely free of sperm.
As a result, it is still possible for a woman to get pregnant immediately after her partner has a vasectomy.
Swelling and irritation in the scrotum are common. In some cases, the scrotum may look bruised or discolored.
Long-term consequences and risks
Most long-term consequences of a vasectomy are positive. Some people, for example, report improvements in their sex life, which may be due in part to decreased anxiety about unintentionally getting a partner pregnant.
However, there are potential risks following the procedure, including those below.
Recanalization happens when the vas deferens grow back to create a new connection, causing the vasectomy to reverse itself.
The sperm are then able to get back into the semen, meaning that the person becomes fertile again.
2. Failed vasectomy
Sometimes, a vasectomy may fail. In this case, a person may need to repeat the surgery or find another birth control option.
3. Regret and uncertainty
Some people may regret having a vasectomy and feel uncertain about whether they might still want children, particularly if they start a new relationship.
Vasectomies are usually reversible, but the likelihood of success depends on the type of vasectomy and the skill of the reversal surgeon, among other factors.
Learn more about vasectomy reversal here.
The risk of a person getting cancer after a vasectomy is very small.
A 2019 study that followed more than 2.1 million Danish men for 38 years found a small but statistically significant increase in prostate cancer among men who had vasectomies.
Researchers know neither why this risk exists nor whether another independent factor explains the risk.