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Home > Learn > FYI > >What Are The Side Effects Of A Vasectomy?

What Are The Side Effects Of A Vasectomy?

Mar 13, 23 8 min

A vasectomy is an effective procedure for men who no longer want to have children, but what are the side effects of a vasectomy? Read on to learn more.

Medically reviewed by Morgan Spicer, Everly Health Medical Communications Manager 

While vasectomies are safe, most medical procedures do have some side effects and potential complications. Let’s take a look and what side effects you may experience after a vasectomy

What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a surgery that stops the flow of sperm from reaching semen, acting as a form of birth control for those assigned male at birth. Vasectomies are the only form of permanent male sterilization and have one of the highest success rates for birth control at 99.7%. [1] During the procedure, the vas deferens, which is the sperm duct that transports sperm to the urethra during ejaculation, are cut and sealed. This prevents any sperm cells from leaving the body, therefore preventing pregnancy. Over 500,000 vasectomies are performed every year; most commonly performed by urologists, but sometimes by general surgeons or physicians. [1-2] Vasectomies take under 30 minutes to perform and are done so using local anesthesia, meaning the patient is numbed and awake. 

What are some common reasons to get a vasectomy?

A vasectomy could be a great option for many reasons. Whether you have decided against ever having biological children, or do not want any more biological children, a vasectomy could be a great form of birth control for you. Some common reasons to get a vasectomy include:

Efficacy 

Vasectomies are very effective procedures with high success rates. If you and your partner have decided to not get pregnant or have kids using your sperm, a vasectomy can guarantee with over 99.5% certainty that a pregnancy will not occur. Other birth control methods such as condoms, birth control pills, etc. are subject to a failure rate of 7% to 9% with typical use. [3]

Reversible

Vasectomies should only be performed on those that see it as a permanent solution; however, it is true that most vasectomies can be reversed. [1] This is an attractive option for many people should something change down the line, as there is a chance of having an effective reversal done to once again allow for sperm flow through the urethra. 

Minimally invasive

The procedure is minimally invasive with a low complication rate between 1% to 2%, and can sometimes be done without the use of a scalpel at all. [1,4] Other surgical sterilization procedures such as tubal ligations (for those assigned female at birth) are more complicated procedures with more side effects, a higher cost, and are more complicated to reverse. [5]

Minimal side effects

We will talk more about the side effects of a vasectomy, but the short list of side effects and complications is one reason that someone may be interested in getting a vasectomy. Hormonal birth control commonly causes some side effects in people assigned female at birth, as can copper IUDs. [6-7] If you’re looking for a permanent or long term contraceptive option without the weight gain, acne, mood swings, and more, a vasectomy might be your best option. 

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What are the long-term side effects of a vasectomy?

Vasectomies are very safe procedures with minimal side effects, although there are some potential risks you should be aware of. [1] These include: [8]

Sperm injury

The more time has passed after a vasectomy, the higher the chances of sperm injury. This includes an increase in DNA fragmentation, decrease in sperm motility and production, etc. If you’re not planning on having children with the sperm, this isn’t an issue to be very concerned about. 

Sperm granulomas

A relatively common side effect after a vasectomy is a sperm granuloma. These occur in around 35 to 42% of patients and vary from person to person. [9] A granuloma is a mass that will develop due to leaking sperm about two to three weeks after a vasectomy. These are not cancerous or dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable and last for a while. Often they heal on their own, but they can be surgically removed or treated with over the counter pain medications if necessary. 

Post-vasectomy pain syndrome (PVPS)

PVPS is defined by a persistent or intermittent pain or discomfort in the scrotum for at least three months. This is the most common late-stage complication after a vasectomy and occurs in about 1-15% of men. [8] Onset of PVPS averages around 7-24 months after surgery and, so far, no risk factors or demographic factors are associated. [8]

What are the short-term side effects of a vasectomy?

Short-term side effects are more likely than long term, and most side effects are fairly mild. A few short-term side effects you may notice after a vasectomy are [8]:

Discomfort

Some pain and discomfort is expected after a vasectomy and is likely to occur for 72 hours following the procedure. Ice and acetaminophen should be enough to treat any swelling and discomfort you may experience, but we recommend following the advice given by your specific healthcare provider. It’s also common to have a bit of bleeding, so it is recommended to keep the wound clean and pat dry after bathing, and avoid rubbing the area until fully healed. 

Infection

As with all surgical procedures, infection is a risk. In general, the incidence rate of infection after a vasectomy is between three and four percent. [8] There is also a potential of a hematoma forming, which is a large blood clot that is likely to go away on its own. Most infections are local and can be easily treated with medication. 

You should contact your healthcare provider immediately if you’re in extreme pain, have extreme swelling or continued bleeding, or if you develop a fever. [10]

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Recovering from a vasectomy

Recovering from surgery is usually a grueling and long process. Fortunately, a vasectomy isn’t a very invasive procedure, so the recovery process is relatively easy. 

Post-procedure

Immediately following the procedure, it’s expected to feel some pain and tenderness that can be managed with ice, appropriate underwear, and over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. [1] It’s common to notice a bit of bleeding or oozing the first few days after the procedure, so it’s recommended to keep clean dressing on the wound and avoid strenuous activity within the first 48 hours. 

The days after

It’s recommended that patients rest for a few days following a vasectomy and avoid physically demanding work for about a week after the procedure, including exercise and sexual activity. Keep in mind that a vasectomy will not immediately prevent pregnancy, so back up contraceptive methods are recommended until a sperm analysis is completed. [10] Showering is fine post-procedure, but it’s recommended that patients avoid submerging the incision site for at least five days. [1]

The months after

By this point you should be back in your normal routine of work, exercise, and sexual activity. If you’re still experiencing any pain or discomfort after two weeks post-vasectomy, it’s recommended that you see your healthcare provider.  There is generally no follow up required for vasectomies until a semen analysis approximately three months post-vasectomy. This semen analysis will be able to confirm whether or not the vasectomy was effective, and can ensure the semen no longer contains sperm. Per the American Urological Association, you no longer need to rely on condoms or hormonal birth control for contraception after a post-vasectomy semen specimen shows azoospermia or only rare non-motile sperm. [10]

Key Takeaways

  • A vasectomy is a great option for you and your partner if you’ve decided you’d like to prevent any future pregnancies.

  • A vasectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that prevents sperm from leaving the body during ejaculation.

  • Vasectomies are highly effective and typically only take 30 minutes to complete. 

  • Many people have opted to get a vasectomy because they are more affordable than a tubal ligation, are minimally invasive, have few side effects, and are reversible.

    • It’s not recommended that anyone get a vasectomy with plans to get a reversal

  • A potential long term side effect is a sperm granulosa, which is a noncancerous mass that may form post-procedure. These are relatively harmless and often go away on their own, but can cause pain or discomfort for some.

  • Other long term side effects include chronic pain and sperm injury.

  • Short-term side effects include some swelling, pain, and discomfort, as well as minimal bleeding. Infection and hematomas are also a risk but are rarely serious complications.

  • Recovering from a vasectomy is fairly quick and most report they are fully healed after a week. It’s recommended that sexual activity and physically demanding activity are avoided until five or so days post-procedure.

  • You should not expect your vasectomy to be effective until your semen analysis occurs about three months post-procedure. Use backup contraceptive methods until your healthcare provider tells you otherwise. 

 

References:
  1. Stormont G, Deibert CM. Vasectomy. [Updated 2022 Jul 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan. URL
  2.  Eisenberg ML, Henderson JT, Amory JK, Smith JF, Walsh TJ. Racial differences in vasectomy utilization in the United States: data from the national survey of family growth. Urology. 2009;74(5):1020-1024. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2009.06.042
  3. Britton LE, Alspaugh A, Greene MZ, McLemore MR. CE: An Evidence-Based Update on Contraception. Am J Nurs. 2020;120(2):22-33. doi:10.1097/01.NAJ.0000654304.29632.a7
  4. Cook LA, Pun A, Gallo MF, Lopez LM, Van Vliet HA. Scalpel versus no-scalpel incision for vasectomy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;2014(3):CD004112. Published 2014 Mar 30. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004112.pub4
  5. Hendrix NW, Chauhan SP, Morrison JC. Sterilization and its consequences. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 1999;54(12):766-777. doi:10.1097/00006254-199912000-00005
  6. Hubacher D, Chen PL, Park S. Side effects from the copper IUD: do they decrease over time?. Contraception. 2009;79(5):356-362. doi:10.1016/j.contraception.2008.11.012
  7. Cooper DB, Patel P, Mahdy H. Oral Contraceptive Pills. [Updated 2022 Nov 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. URL 
  8. Yang F, Li J, Dong L, et al. Review of Vasectomy Complications and Safety Concerns. World J Mens Health. 2021;39(3):406-418. doi:10.5534/wjmh.200073
  9. Gade J, Brasso K. Spermagranulomer [Sperm granulomata]. Ugeskr Laeger. 1990;152(32):2282-2284.
  10. Sharlip ID, Belker AM, Honig S et al: Vasectomy: AUA guideline. J Urol 2012; 188: 2482.

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