What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a surgical operation that cuts the tubes (called the vas deferens or the ‘vas’) that carry the sperm from the testicles to the tip of the penis. Men generally get vasectomies to prevent pregnancy with a partner. It’s a very effective, safe and permanent form of contraception.

Find out more about vasectomy reversal.

Vasectomy_Diagram
Will I still ejaculate after a vasectomy?

Sperm only makes up about 5% of what you ejaculate. Sperm is produced in the testicles, but most of what you notice when you ejaculate is the extra fluid that is produced outside of the testicles and protects the sperm. So even when you’ve had a vasectomy, the amount of fluid doesn’t notably decrease.

How common are vasectomies?

About 30,000 men have a vasectomy in Australia each year. About one in four men over the age of 40 have had a vasectomy.

Who performs a vasectomy?

Vasectomies can be performed by specialists (e.g. urologists, general surgeons, and some gynaecologists) or some general practitioners (GPs). You usually need a referral from your doctor to see a specialist. A vasectomy is performed in a hospital or in a doctor’s private rooms, either under a general or local anaesthetic. It’s a relatively quick and simple procedure that only takes 15-30 minutes.

Are there different techniques for vasectomies?

A vasectomy can be done using a scalpel or a no-scalpel technique. In the scalpel technique, the doctor will make a small cut of 1-2 cm on each side of the scrotum to access the vas deferens. In the no-scalpel technique, they will use a sharpened instrument to pierce the skin over the vas deferens, creating an opening of about 1 cm. From there, the steps in both techniques are the same.

Once the vas deferens are located, the doctor will cut the tubes and remove a small piece of tissue. The ends of the vas deferens are then sealed. In some cases, the doctor might take additional steps to minimise the chances of vasectomy failure, such as placing some surrounding tissue in between the two ends of the vas deferens.

The recovery time for both techniques is the same.

What should I expect after the operation?

After the operation, you might experience a small amount of bruising and mild discomfort for a few days. Over-the-counter painkillers and supportive underwear are usually all that you need to help with this. Ice packs might help, but you shouldn’t put them directly onto your skin.

Your doctor will talk to you about how much time you will need off work depending on what you do.

Does a vasectomy affect sex drive or ejaculation?

After a vasectomy, you will still produce sperm but they won’t be able to leave your testicles. A vasectomy doesn’t interfere with your ability to get an erection, have an orgasm or ejaculate. There’s no evidence that a vasectomy will alter your sex drive or testosterone level.

It’s important to note that a vasectomy doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

How quickly does a vasectomy work?

It can take a few months after a vasectomy for the sperm to clear out of your ducts. Over this period, we recommend you ejaculate about 20 times (through masturbation or intercourse) to help ‘clear the tubes’ from remaining sperm. After three months, you’ll have a semen analysis to check that there are no live sperm in your semen. About four in five men will have no sperm present. For the others, more tests are done every one to two months until they are clear. It’s important to use another method of contraception until your doctor says there are no live sperm in your semen.

Can a vasectomy fail?

Even after an initial negative sperm count, in about one in 500 men, sperm will reappear months or even years later. We believe that in some men, new passages form for sperm to ‘bypass’ the vasectomy site. The risk of pregnancy after a vasectomy is small (one in 2000).

Is a vasectomy right for me?

It’s important to think hard about whether a vasectomy is right for you before you get one, as it can’t always be reversed. If you have a long-term partner, you might want to talk it over with them.

A vasectomy could be right for you if:

  • You and your partner are sure you have completed your family

  • You want an effective, permanent method of contraception that doesn’t need ongoing or hormonal treatment.

A vasectomy might not be right for you if:

  • You’re relatively young and don’t have any children

  • You’re not in a relationship, or you’ve recently separated or divorced

  • You’re having relationship or marriage problems.

What are the risks and side effects of vasectomy operations?

Getting a vasectomy is safe but carries a small risk (1-2%) of infection or significant bleeding. A small proportion of men have long-term pain or discomfort in the scrotum afterwards, and some have pain with ejaculation. It’s impossible to predict which men will have ongoing pain, but there are medicines that can help. In very rare cases, you could need further surgery. There is no evidence that a vasectomy increases your risks of other health problems.

Why is it important to think about sperm storage?

Even though only a small fraction of men who have a vasectomy want another child, some men store sperm before a vasectomy. This can mean you won’t need a vasectomy reversal in the future, although you’ll still need some form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) for your partner to fall pregnant. Storing sperm can be a safeguard in case a vasectomy reversal isn’t successful, but there are also costs involved with sperm storage.

Where can I get more information on vasectomies?

For more information about vasectomy or vasectomy reversal, you can speak with your local doctor, urologist or sexual health and family planning clinic.

Your doctor’s appointment

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Should I consider sperm banking before having a vasectomy?

  • How long will I have to wait before having sex without using contraception?

  • Can the vasectomy be reversed if I change my mind in the future?

Email these questions to yourself to take into your doctor's appointment.

Resources

Vasectomy and Vasectomy Reversal Fact Sheet Tile Image

Fact sheet

Vasectomy and vasectomy reversal fact sheet

Video

What is a vasectomy? And how does it work?

Storing Your Sperm Fact Sheet Tile Image

Fact sheet

Storing your sperm fact sheet

Video

Vasectomy