Vasectomy (cont.)

How effective is vasectomy?

Vasectomy is one of the most effective forms of birth control. In the first year after vasectomy, only 15 to 20 of every 10,000 couples will experience a pregnancy.1,2 In comparison, 1,400 of every 10,000 couples have a pregnancy each year using condoms, and 500 of every 10,000 couples experience a pregnancy each year using oral contraceptive pills.4

However, a vasectomy is not effective right away. You still need to use other birth control until the remaining sperm are cleared out of the semen. This takes 15 to 20 ejaculations, or about 3 months. Even then, 1 of every 5 men will still have sperm in his semen and will need to wait longer for the sperm to clear.2

Your health care provider will check your semen for sperm at least once after the surgery. Once the sperm count has dropped to zero, it is safe to assume your vasectomy is now an effective form of birth control.2,5 Until that time, you need to use another form of birth control to make sure your partner does not become pregnant.

What are the risks of vasectomy?

Although vasectomy is safe and highly effective, men should be aware of problems that could occur after surgery and over time.1

Surgical Risks

After surgery, most men have discomfort, bruising, and some swelling, all of which usually go away within 2 weeks. Problems that can occur after surgery and need to be checked by a health care provider include:

  • Hematoma. Bleeding under the skin that can lead to painful swelling.
  • Infection. Fever and scrotal redness and tenderness are signs of infection.5

Other Risks

The risk of other problems is small, but they do occur. These include:

  • A lump in the scrotum, called a granuloma. This is formed from sperm that leak out of the vas deferens into the tissue.3
  • Pain in the testicles that doesn't go away. This is called postvasectomy pain syndrome and occurs in about 10% of men.6
  • Vasectomy failure. There is a small risk that the vasectomy will fail. This can lead to unintended pregnancy. Among 1,000 vasectomies, 11 will likely fail over 2 years; and half of these failures will occur within the first 3 months after surgery.5 The risk of failure depends on a number of factors. For example, some surgical techniques are more likely to fail than others.7 Additionally, there is a very small risk that the two ends of the vas deferens will grow back together. If this happens, sperm may be able to enter the semen and make pregnancy possible.7
  • Risk of regret. Vasectomy may be a good choice for men and/or couples who are certain that they do not want more or any children. Most men who have vasectomy, as well as spouses of men who have vasectomy, do not regret the decision.5 Men who have vasectomy before age 30 are the group most likely to want a vasectomy reversal in the future.7
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2014

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