Is a vasectomy reversible? Here’s all you need to know

Before men book in for a vasectomy, medical professionals implore them to be absolutely certain they no longer want to have children.

That’s because it’s considered a permanent method of contraception. However, in some cases, a man may want to reverse his vasectomy. 

What happens next?

Firstly, what is a vasectomy?

Almost 30,000 men get vasectomies each year in Australia. It is a surgical procedure that causes permanent sterilisation of men, preventing them from fathering children.

Most vasectomies are performed in men who have already fathered children and don’t want any more.

A vasectomy doesn’t protect men or their partner(s) from sexually transmitted infections. The best way to avoid these infections is the proper use of condoms.

How does a vasectomy work?

During a vasectomy, the vas deferens is cut and a small length is usually removed so that sperm produced by the testis (testicle) can’t travel further through the reproductive system. The same procedure is used on both sides of the scrotum.

Vasectomies are performed by some GPs, general surgeons, and urologists. It can be performed as a day procedure in a hospital, under general anaesthesia, or in a medical clinic under local anaesthesia.

As with any surgical procedure, there’s a small risk of pain, bleeding, bruising, and/or infection after a vasectomy. Your doctor will provide advice about how to minimise the risk or treat these problems.

Are vasectomies reversible?

Although a vasectomy should be considered irreversible when you’re deciding about whether it’s right for you, another operation is possible if you want to recover your fertility, but the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

As a vasectomy involves cutting both the tubes (vas deferens) that carry sperm from your testes, reversing a vasectomy is a procedure to re-join the tubes to allow sperm to mix with your semen, and therefore making you fertile again.

About three out of four couples who want to conceive after a vasectomy reversal do achieve pregnancy, but success is influenced by many other fertility-related factors like age and other health conditions, as well as the time since vasectomy. 

According to Dr Justin Low — the National Lead Vasectomy Doctor at Marie Stopes Australia, which is the largest provider of vasectomies in Australia — the rate of success for vasectomy reversal is higher if you have the surgery closer to the time of the vasectomy. Reversal may be up to 80% successful within three years but success drops to around 50% after five years and is even lower after 10 years.

An alternative to a vasectomy reversal for men who wish to father children is the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as IVF. Your doctor will be able to guide you about these options.

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