anonymous on August 30, 2011

I’m getting a vasectomy...will I be able to have normal sex afterward?

I am 45-years-old, married with two teenage children. I’m planning to have a vasectomy, but I’m concerned about how long the procedure takes and how it will affect my sex life. Is it safe? Is it foolproof? Can I have normal sex after the operation? Is it possible to reverse it if I want to?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on August 30, 2011

You asked some terrific questions about vasectomies that I’ll do my best to answer. First, it’s perfectly normal for men who are considering a vasectomy to feel a little anxious about the procedure...when you talk to your doctor about getting a vasectomy, I would encourage you to ask any questions you may have.

In the meantime, here’s an overview of vasectomies for your consideration.

How long does a vasectomy procedure take? A vasectomy usually takes around 30 minutes at a physician’s or urologist’s office. You’ll be given a local anesthetic to numb the area around the vas deferens (the tube that brings sperm from the testicles to the prostate).

Your doctor will make small incision in the skin and then either cut and cauterize, or cut and tie the ends of the vas deferens. The incision will be stitched up to finish the procedure. Afterward, follow the instructions from your doctor and take it easy for a few days to allow the incision to heal.

How will a vasectomy affect your sex life? In most cases, not at all. But it’s best to wait about a week after getting a vasectomy to resume sexual activity. Also, remember that it’s important to use another form of birth control until the vasectomy has been tested and deemed successful.

How effective is the procedure? Vasectomies are very effective. In fact, vasectomies have one of the lowest failure rates of any type of contraception. That said, to be on the safe side, a vasectomy needs to be tested about three months after the procedure to make sure it was effective in preventing sperm from being ejaculated...and another form of contraception should be used in the meantime. In rare cases, if a doctor finds sperm in ejaculate after a vasectomy, a subsequent procedure may be advised.

Is a vasectomy safe? Complications from vasectomies are rare, but may include complications such as bleeding or bruising, infection or inflammation. If you experience any discomfort after a vasectomy, be sure to let your physician know to ensure the best care.

Can a vasectomy be reversed? In general, vasectomies are considered a permanent solution to birth control for men and/or monogamous couples who ⎼ like you ⎼ don’t want any more kids, or want no children at all.

That said, if family planning decisions change at some point, vasectomies can be reversed with a small surgery. Be aware, however, that reversal doesn’t always work. Research indicates that reversals are successful in about 50-70% of cases but, according to a 2011 review of the literature by researchers at the Weill Cornell Medical College, the success of the procedure increases if it’s been just a short time between the vasectomy and the reversal.

Thanks again for sharing your questions with us, and I wish you good luck and good health as you work with your doctor or urologist to decide what’s best for you.

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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