Jul 1, 1999 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Having a Vasectomy

Am Fam Physician. 1999 Jul 1;60(1):151-152.

See related article on vasectomy.

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a procedure that makes a man sterile (this means he has no sperm in his semen and can't make a woman pregnant). The doctor cuts and removes part of the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the semen. (This tube is called the “vas deferens.”)

How is a vasectomy done?

A vasectomy takes 30 to 45 minutes. Before the operation starts, your doctor will give you a shot to numb your scrotum. Then your doctor will make one or two very small incisions in your scrotum. Through these small openings, your doctor will remove part of each sperm tube. The ends of the tubes that stay in your scrotum will be closed up.

Will I be sterile right away?

No. Sperm will still be in your tubes right after the surgery. It takes eight to 10 weeks and 12 to 20 ejaculations before all the sperm are out of your semen. A semen test will show if there are sperm in your semen. You take this test about two months after the operation.

Is sterility permanent after vasectomy?

Most of the time, yes. Once the test shows there are no sperm in your semen, you are sterile. However, in a few men, the tubes grow back together, and sperm get into the semen again. If that happens, you will no longer be sterile.

What if I change my mind?

Some men want the vasectomy reversed so they can father a child. But surgery to reconnect the tubes doesn't always work. You shouldn't have a vasectomy until you're sure you won't want to have children in the future.

Will I still have a normal sex life after a vasectomy?

Yes, your sex drive and your ability to have an erection and an ejaculation will not change after a vasectomy. In fact, some couples find that their sex life is better after a vasectomy because they don't worry about pregnancy.

What should I do before the surgery?

First, you and your partner should talk about the idea of a vasectomy and make the decision together. Your partner should be with you when you and your doctor talk about a vasectomy and on the day of your surgery.

Be sure to ask your doctor all the questions you have about the operation. Tell your doctor about anything that worries you. Your doctor will tell you what you need to do to get ready. Your doctor may give you a list of things to do. It's important for you to follow these directions.

Does a vasectomy hurt?

You may have a little pain during and after the operation. After the vasectomy, you should rest and put ice packs on your scrotum to help the pain. You should also wear an athletic supporter for a couple of days. You can take a mild pain medicine when you need it. You might have a little pain for a few days after the operation. You may also notice that your scrotum has some bruises and is a little swollen.

What activities can I do after the operation?

You'll need to stay home and rest for one or two days after your surgery. Then for the next two weeks, you can slowly become more active.

You may take a shower the day after your surgery. However, don't take tub baths or sit in water for about one week. This gives your incision time to heal.

You may have sex in one week, if you want to. Remember, though, that you won't be sterile until 8 to 10 weeks after the operation. So keep using birth control until you have the test to check for sperm in your semen.

Does a vasectomy cause any problems?

Sometimes there are small problems, but not very often. The incision might get infected or bleed. Signs of an infection include swelling that lasts more than one or two days, redness and increasing pain. See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. If you have an infection, you may need to take an antibiotic. If your incision starts to bleed, your doctor may need to do a small surgery to stop the bleeding.

Some men get a lump in their scrotum many weeks after the vasectomy. The lump usually goes away on its own. If the lump hurts or doesn't go away in about six weeks, call your doctor. Pain may develop, caused by a condition called “congestive epididymitis.” It usually goes away on its own. Aspirin or acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) may help.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact afpserv@aafp.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

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