Vasectomy

Vasectomy (male sterilisation) is a small operation that prevents pregnancy.

It does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Vasectomy is intended as a permanent method of contraception. Reversing it isn’t easy, and is not available on the NHS. In most cases, vasectomy is more than 99% effective.

How vasectomy works

During a vasectomy, the tubes that carry sperm from your testicles to your penis are cut, blocked or sealed. This prevents sperm passing from your testicles out of your body through the penis.

You can still ejaculate (come) if you’ve had a vasectomy. It does not affect your sex drive.

The operation is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. You will not feel any pain but it may feel slightly uncomfortable. It takes about 15 minutes. You’ll usually be able to go home the same day.

Deciding to have a vasectomy

Before having a vasectomy, you should:

  • be certain that you do not want to have any, or any more, children
  • talk about it with your partner, if you have one

You shouldn’t make the decision about having a vasectomy after a crisis or a big change in your life. For example, if your partner has just had a baby, or has just had an abortion.

Reversal is not available on the NHS and the operation is expensive if done privately. If a reversal is carried out within 10 years of your vasectomy, the success rate is about 55%. This falls to 25% if your reversal is carried out more than 10 years after your vasectomy.

Even if a surgeon manages to join up the vas deferens tubes again, pregnancy may still not be possible. This is why you should be certain before going ahead with the vasectomy.

Can you have a vasectomy if you’re under 30?

You can have a vasectomy at any age.

People under 30 are more likely to regret a vasectomy.

Your doctor will talk with you about your situation and can answer any questions you have.

Recovering after the operation

It’s common to have some mild discomfort, swelling and bruising of your scrotum for a few days after a vasectomy.

You may have blood in your semen in the first few ejaculations after a vasectomy. This isn’t harmful.

You should be able to return to work 1 or 2 days after a vasectomy.

Do

  • take pain relief (such as paracetamol) if needed
  • wear close-fitting underwear (such as Y-fronts)
  • change your underwear every day
  • make sure you dry your genital area gently and thoroughly after you bath or shower
  • wait a couple of days before having sex again

Don’t

  • do not play sport for at least 1 week after the operation
  • do not lift anything heavy for at least 1 week after the operation

Using additional contraception

It can take up to 30 ejaculations for your tubes to be free from sperm, so there’s still a risk of pregnancy.

Up to 3 semen tests are done after the operation to make sure that all the sperm have gone.

Use another type of contraception (such as condoms) until you’re told it’s OK to stop.

Risks of vasectomy

Rarely, a vasectomy can cause problems such as:

  • a haematoma (when blood clots around a broken blood vessel) inside your scrotum – in severe cases you may need more surgery
  • sperm granulomas (caused by sperm leaking from the tubes and forming hard lumps) – these can usually be treated using anti-inflammatory medication from your GP
  • infection (if bacteria enter through the cuts made in your scrotum) – keep your genital area clean and dry to lower the risk of infection
  • long-term testicle pain (due to a pinched nerve or scarring) – is usually mild but in severe cases may need more surgery
  • your testicles feeling full – this should pass within a few weeks
  • your tubes rejoin – which means the vasectomy will not work as contraception and there’s a risk of pregnancy

Speak to your GP practice if:

  • you’re worried about your symptoms
  • you’re in a lot of pain

Where can you get a vasectomy?

Depending on where you live in Scotland, you can get a vasectomy at:

You can also go to a private clinic.

Last updated:
20 December 2022

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