Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
If you’ve decided you don’t want to have children (or any more than you already have), congratulations — it’s a hard decision for many men. Now that you know what you want (or don’t), you might be weighing your options for preventing future offspring with a popular procedure known as a vasectomy.
A vasectomy is a safe and effective surgical procedure that offers permanent birth control for men. For the most part, it won’t have a major effect on your sex life.
Still, many guys understandably have questions about the risks, failure rates and what to expect from the big snip-snip.
Below, we’ll address these concerns and give context on how long it’ll take to get back to your old sex-having self, safely shooting blanks.
Let’s start with the 101-level questions.
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that provides permanent birth control for men. It’s one of the most effective methods of birth control available.
A vasectomy is generally considered a minor surgery, meaning it usually has a shorter recovery period than other surgical procedures. Vasectomy surgery is fairly short, with most procedures completed in under 30 minutes. The surgery is safe and very effective, with a low complication rate in the 1 to 2 percent range.
How quickly you want to get back to business is totally up to you — you can have sex as soon as you feel ready following a vasectomy. Most men are able to have sex about a week after the procedure, although this can vary based on swelling, bruising and other symptoms you experience during postoperative recovery.
After a vasectomy, it’s common to experience pain and discomfort for several days. You may have bruising and swelling on and around your scrotum after the surgery. This typically goes away over the course of several days or weeks.
To make postoperative recovery easier, your healthcare provider may recommend wearing a supportive garment, such as a jockstrap. This can help support your scrotum and reduce pain and discomfort.
A word of advice: The first time you have sex after a vasectomy, take it slow and ease yourself back into sexual activity to avoid discomfort or injury. Try to avoid any taxing physical activities in the week after surgery, then gradually return to an active lifestyle.
Some guys wonder if ejaculating too soon can cause any injuries. While your equipment is going to explode like a cartoon gun with someone’s finger in it after a vasectomy, sex and ejaculation will probably be unpleasant until the healing progresses a bit.
It’s possible to tear your stitches or experience a little bleeding if you’re getting active enough sexually. But if we’re being honest, the timelines for “pain has subsided enough to feel like having sex” and “healed enough to have sex” overlap.
Beyond waiting to have sex, it’s important to closely follow the instructions from your healthcare provider while you recover from vasectomy surgery.
Most guys get that a vasectomy will prevent them from getting someone pregnant, but the details can be a bit fuzzy beyond that.
Men wonder if they’ll be sterile immediately or whether the procedure could present a risk of ED after a vasectomy or ejaculation problems like premature ejaculation or weak ejaculation.
Most of these fears come from a lack of knowledge about the procedure itself, so let’s look at what’s actually going to go on.
During a vasectomy procedure, a surgeon will typically cut the vas deferens — the tubes that transport sperm from the testicles to the ejaculatory ducts.
However, other methods can be used beyond the scalpel vasectomy. A no-scalpel vasectomy involves tying the vas deferens rather than cutting them or puncturing the skin with a special tool instead of making larger incisions.
Aside from preventing pregnancy, a vasectomy won’t have any effects on your sexual performance or sex life.
And unless something goes terribly, terribly wrong, there’s not really a chance you’ll experience erectile dysfunction. If you weren’t affected by ED before getting a vasectomy, you won’t be affected after the surgery.
While a vasectomy prevents sperm from exiting your penis, it doesn’t prevent you from being able to ejaculate. During sex or masturbation, you’ll still reach orgasm and ejaculate as normal, with no noticeable change in your semen volume.
Though your testicles will continue to produce sperm like they always did, the excess sperm will simply be reabsorbed by your body, with no effect on your fertility, sexual performance or health.
Oh, and here’s one more myth we can bust: Contrary to popular belief, undergoing a vasectomy won’t affect your ability to produce testosterone. While the vas deferens transport sperm, testosterone is transported to your body via your bloodstream — a process unaffected by a vasectomy.
In short, sex will be exactly the same as before you got a vasectomy, just without any risk of getting your partner pregnant.
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The most realistic fear most men should have about a vasectomy procedure (other than the temporary discomfort that comes afterward) is that it might fail.
Although rare, it’s possible for a vasectomy to fail, meaning you’ll still have some amount of sperm in your ejaculate after the procedure.
This can occur when the vas deferens (the internal tubes cut during a vasectomy) reattach after the procedure. This is a very uncommon complication — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vasectomies have an average failure rate of just 0.15 percent (better than the Pill, which is around 7 percent).
This issue can be fixed through a repeat procedure to cut the vas deferens and prevent the flow of sperm from your testicles into your ejaculatory ducts.
Here’s the catch: Vasectomies aren’t instantaneous — you’ll likely still be fertile up to a few weeks or months after the cut. This is because semen can stay in the vas deferens after the surgery. In some cases, sperm may remain in your semen for months.
With this in mind, use birth control the first few weeks after the procedure while your sperm count gradually decreases. In the months after a vasectomy, you’ll typically have your semen tested to check that it doesn’t contain any sperm.
Though vasectomy surgery can be reversed, the reversal process is complex and not always successful. As such, it’s important to only undergo a vasectomy if you’re absolutely certain you don’t want to have children from here on out.
To avoid pregnancy, don’t stop using birth control until your semen has been checked to verify it no longer contains sperm.
A vasectomy is a highly effective method of birth control for men. But since it’s intended to be a permanent method of contraception, you should be absolutely certain you don’t want to father any more children (or any children, if you’re childless) before undergoing this procedure.
If you’re thinking about getting a vasectomy, keep these points in mind:
Vasectomies are a safe form of birth control. Aside from post-vasectomy pain syndrome and the need for ibuprofen and an ice pack, the side effects are generally minimal.
Vasectomies are generally supposed to be permanent. The goal is sterilization and infertility, which is what most guys who elect to get the procedure hope for.
Vasectomies can be done quickly with local anesthesia.
A vasectomy won’t affect your sex drive or increase your risk of ED, except in rare cases. When done correctly, it doesn’t affect sexual function in any way.
While vasectomies have a high success rate, they’re not instantaneous. You’ll have to give a semen sample about 12 weeks after the procedure for semen analysis to tell you whether it worked — until then, avoid unprotected sex.
If you change your mind, a vasectomy reversal may be possible. But reversals aren’t always successful, so talk to a urology expert or another medical professional about your options.
Although a vasectomy will prevent your partner from becoming pregnant, it won’t provide either of you with any protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To stay protected, get regularly tested for STIs and/or use condoms if you have multiple partners after the procedure.
Getting a vasectomy is a big step. If you’re ready to take it, talk to a healthcare professional today.