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5 Things to Know About Vasectomies

A vasectomy is a great option for those who no longer wish to have children.

Providers perform about half a million vasectomies each year—a procedure for permanent sterilization in men and people assigned male at birth. While vasectomies are faster, safer and more cost-effective than tubal ligations—sterilization for women and people assigned female at birth—there are still many misconceptions about the procedure.

Here are five important things to know about getting a vasectomy.

1. It works by cutting the vas deferens

The vas deferens is the tube that connects the sperm-storing epididymis to the semen-producing prostate gland—in short, it’s the route that sperm take out of the body. A vasectomy involves cutting out a short segment of the vas deferens in order to disconnect it from the prostate gland and stop sperm from exiting the body. “Someone who has a vasectomy will still be able to ejaculate, but there will no longer be sperm present in the semen a few weeks after the procedure,” says Whitney R. Smith, MD, a urologist at Jefferson Health - Abington.

2. The procedure can be done in-office

Most men or people assigned male at birth who wish to no longer have children are candidates for a vasectomy. “If you’re interested in getting a vasectomy, you will need an office visit and exam so we can take into account any relevant medical history or special precautions necessary to perform the procedure safely,” says Dr. Smith. “But, once past the initial consultation process, the procedure can be done fairly quickly in an office setting.”

3. There’s a low risk of complications

Every medical procedure involves some level of risk, but vasectomies, in general, are very safe. Bruising and swelling are common, but resolve quickly. “There is a small chance for a skin infection or significant bleeding,” says Dr. Smith. In addition, there is a very small chance that a vasectomy may not sterilize the patient, in which case it would need to be repeated.

4. Recovery is usually quick

Most people who undergo vasectomies experience some swelling or bruising, which typically subsides within a few days and can be managed by applying ice to the area. “We perform the procedure through one or two small incisions—about one centimeter long—so there isn’t a big wound to take care of during recovery,” says Dr. Smith. “Most people recover within a few days—if they come in on Friday to get the procedure, they can typically go back to work on Monday.”

5. You won’t be immediately sterile

One of the most common misconceptions about vasectomies is that they sterilize a person right away. “There may still be sperm beyond the point in the vas deferens that is cut,” says Dr. Smith. “So it’s important to continue to use protection during sex for a few weeks after the procedure.” Your provider can check to see if the vasectomy was successful by taking a semen analysis during a follow-up visit.

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