Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Thinking of getting a vasectomy? Hats off to you for making a responsible (and briefly uncomfortable) choice for your sex life and you and your partner’s futures.
A vasectomy is a highly effective method of contraception for men, offering one of the lowest failure rates of any method of birth control. After vasectomy, almost all men will be able to have sex without the concern of getting their partners pregnant.
Don’t get us wrong — there are plenty of reasons to be a little nervous ahead of this or any medical procedure. With vasectomies, some men worry about the pain, some men worry about the complications and some worry whether sex after a vasectomy will feel the same — or even be possible.
Here’s the good news: If you’re worried that a vasectomy may cause erectile dysfunction (ED), you can start resting easier — especially if you can get an erection without any issues before the procedure.
Vasectomies do have some risk of complications, but ED isn’t one of them.
Surprised? We can explain. Below, we’ve described how a vasectomy works, explained why it’s unlikely to cause erectile dysfunction and talked about why someone might experience sexual dysfunction after this procedure.
We’ve also talked about the proven, science-backed treatment options that are available if you have erectile dysfunction. But before we get to treatments, let’s start with some vasectomy and ED 101.
We want to state this as clearly as possible: From all the available research about vasectomy procedures (of which there is, like, a lot), there are few, if any examples, of a vasectomy causing ED — in fact, most literature essentially rules out any link between vasectomy and erectile dysfunction.
If you get squeamish reading about the details of vasectomies, skip this next paragraph, because we’re about to get a bit graphic.
A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure typically conducted by a urologist (often as an outpatient procedure right there in a urology doctor’s office,) in which the vas deferens — the internal tubes that transport sperm from your testes to your ejaculatory ducts — are cut.
Several different methods are used for vasectomy surgery — and yes, all use local anesthesia.
The first involves making one or two small cuts into the upper areas of your scrotum, through which a surgeon will either tie off or cut the vas deferens to prevent sperm from traveling from your testicles into your urethra.
The second, known as a no-scalpel vasectomy (NSV), involves completing the same procedure without making a surgical incision. This type of surgery is performed through a small hole that’s made in your scrotum with a hemostat, a type of locking forceps.
Undergoing a vasectomy is typically a quick process. After all a vasectomy is a common procedure — some sources put the number of men in the U.S. who have this procedure done at more than 500,000 each year.
While there’s a recovery period after the surgery, most men are able to go back to having sex as normal within a week or two of the procedure.
And for the most part, all of them will still reach orgasm and ejaculate as normal. The only difference is that the semen they ejaculate during sex or masturbation doesn’t contain any sperm.
Research has found that men who get vasectomy surgery rarely report sexual dysfunction as a side effect.
In fact, a 2005 study from Brazil found that vasectomy surgery has a positive impact on sexual function in men, with no increased risk of ED following the procedure.
Of course, you may experience certain issues during the recovery period after a vasectomy, such as pain and discomfort, but ED probably isn’t going to be one of those issues. If you do have ED after a vasectomy, it’s likely caused by a different problem.
We’re not saying there's no way a vasectomy can cause ED, but vasectomies don’t directly impact any of the functions necessary to get you hard.
See, erections depend on several different factors, including arousal, blood flow and erectile function. Vasectomies don’t interrupt the signals that your brain sends to the nerves in and around your penis when you’re aroused. They also don’t restrict blood flow to the erectile tissue of your penis — the corpora cavernosa.
Now, several different factors may cause you to experience difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, from diseases to medications, behaviors and psychological factors.
We’ve talked more about how ED often develops in our full guide to the most common causes of erectile dysfunction, but the most common examples include:
Diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS) or chronic kidney disease
Injuries to the penis, prostate, pelvis, spinal cord or bladder
Injury caused by medical procedures, such as prostate surgery or surgery to treat bladder cancer
Low libido or sex drive
Medications, including those for blood pressure and antidepressants
Illicit drug use
Being overweight or obese
Lack of physical activity
Tobacco and smoking
Anxiety, including sexual performance anxiety
Feelings of guilt about sex
You will notice that prostate and bladder surgeries made the list, as did injuries to some of these systems. What you won’t notice is any mention of vasectomies.
In fact, we weren’t able to find any case studies or examples of someone experiencing ED after a vasectomy, unless they had another one of these other ED causes already. This suggests that even the people with ED after a vasectomy aren’t developing ED as a complication of a vasectomy.
We’re not saying there's no way you won’t get erectile dysfunction after vasectomy, there are still potential risks that come with vasectomies.
Yes, generally a vasectomy procedure is considered safe and effective with minimal risks, according to the NIH, but they also provide a list of potential complications that may come immediately or over time.
Risks associated with vasectomy include:
Hematomas or bleeding under the skin
Granuloma (a lump caused by sperm leaking out into the scrotum)
Failed vasectomy (and unintended pregnancy)
Mental health and distress outcomes in the form of regret
Luckily, that’s about it. A 2021 review explored other potential risks, but found no evidence that a vasectomy can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, hormone imbalances, prostate cancer, autoimmune disease or (yes) ED.
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Because ED after a vasectomy is most likely not due to the procedure itself, it’s hard to recommend specialized treatments. If you experienced severe complications from your procedure, those need to be addressed regardless of erectile function. Likewise, you may need to wait for everything to heal up before you start feeling comfortable enough to have sex again.
But if you are feeling like your performance is slipping at any time in your life, the following erectile dysfunction treatments are recommended by a number of health agencies, experts and (most importantly) us:
See your primary care provider. First and foremost, ED can be a sign of a number of other health issues. Regardless of what you think may be causing your erectile problems, talk to a professional.
Talk to a mental health professional. While ED definitely has a number of physiological triggers and risk factors, there’s no denying the effects of stress, anxiety, depression and self-esteem on your performance. Seeking out therapy may be what helps you best — if you’re not sure where to start, check out our online psychiatry and mental health services.
Explore ED medications for daily or as-needed use. These medications are referred to as PDE5 inhibitors, and work by increasing the flow of blood to certain types of tissue in your body, like the soft, spongy tissue of your penis. Medications like sildenafil (generic for Viagra) and tadalafil (generic for Cialis) have been proven effective and have helped millions of men worldwide since they were approved as ED treatments. And, newer medications like Stendra (avanafil) are quickly proving themselves as well. We even offer another way to take ED meds besides tablets — look into our chewable ED meds hard mints for more.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue, with about 30 million men in the United States affected to some degree. But none of those 30 million men are struggling to get or stay hard due to a safely performed vasectomy.
We’re all for efficient information sharing about men’s health, so here’s what you really need to know about the connection between ED and vasectomies:
Vasectomy is a safe and reliable form of birth control, and you shouldn’t feel worried about experiencing any erection issues after your surgery.
Vasectomies and ED aren’t related. Currently, there’s no scientific research showing that getting a vasectomy will increase your risk of developing ED.
Vasectomies don’t affect the parts of your reproductive system that are connected to ED. Unlike other surgeries that may cause ED, a vasectomy has no effect on your prostate or the nerves in your pelvic area.
If you’re already prone to ED or struggling to maintain an erection, medication can help. Read more about your options in our full guide to ED medications and treatments.
We can help with treatment, too. We also offer several FDA-approved ED medications online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider.