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What is a Vasectomy?

A Permanent Form of Male Birth Control

A vasectomy is a very effective (99.85%) form of male birth control that cuts the supply of sperm to the semen. After a vasectomy, the testicles still generate sperm, but the body simply absorbs them. A vasectomy has a low risk of problems and can usually be performed in an outpatient setting under local anesthesia.


What happens during a vasectomy procedure?

Prior to a vasectomy, your scrotum is shaved and cleaned. You’re awake throughout the procedure, yet given local anesthesia so should not feel any pain. You also may be given medication to help reduce anxiety. 

The Summa Health Urology team performs no-scalpel vasectomies, in which we puncture the scrotum using a small clamp with pointed ends. Each tube is lifted out, cut, sealed and put back in place. This blocks sperm from reaching the semen that is ejaculated from the penis. Just as effective as the conventional method, a no-scalpel vasectomy typically results in less bleeding, swelling and pain, as well as a smaller incision. The skin may be closed with stitches that dissolve, so they do not have to be removed. The procedure takes about 30 minutes.

You must have someone with you to drive you home after the procedure. (You cannot use Uber, Lyft, a taxi or public transportation.) Your scrotum will initially be numb, so it is important to lie on your back as much as possible for the rest of the day. A prescription pain medication will be prescribed.

How long does it take to heal from a vasectomy?

Bruising, swelling and mild-to-moderate discomfort in the scrotum is normal for a few days after a vasectomy. (These symptoms occasionally will last one to two weeks.) To help decrease pain and swelling:

  • Put cold packs on the area for 20-minute increments.
  • Treat mild discomfort with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen.
  • Wear compression shorts or a jockstrap for one to two weeks after the procedure.

You may shower in 24 hours, but please wait two days before getting into the bathtub, hot tub or swimming pool. You may also return to work in two to three days after the procedure, but avoid strenuous activity, including any form of exercise and/or heavy lifting for at least one week.

Will a vasectomy have an effect on my sexual activity?

While you only need to avoid intercourse for a week after the procedure, keep in mind that a vasectomy is not immediately effective. Until your urologist confirms that your sperm count is zero, or that there are very few non-moving sperm, sex without another method of birth control may lead to pregnancy.
You also may notice some mild aching in the testicles during sexual activity for up to two months. However, a vasectomy will not affect your sex drive, ability to have erections, sensation of orgasm or ability to ejaculate. What’s more, a vasectomy does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To protect yourself, always use a condom.

What are potential complications after a vasectomy?

While a vasectomy is a common surgery with low risk of complications, contact your Summa Health urologist if:

  • You have increasing pain, uncontrolled by your pain medication.
  • Your incision or scrotum is red, swollen and tender, or has greenish-brown drainage.
  • You notice bleeding under the skin, which may cause swelling or bruising, or an infection at the incision site.
  • You experience a fever over 101 degrees.
Some complications can be treated with rest and pain medication, while others may require additional medical or surgical treatment. Your Summa Health urologist will present the best options depending on your situation.

How do I know if the vasectomy is effective?

Sperm may still be in the semen for many months after the surgery. In fact, it takes approximately 20 ejaculations and up to three months to clear the sperm from your tubes. During this time, you can still get your partner pregnant. To prevent an unplanned pregnancy, you must continue using an alternate form of birth control until you have had a negative semen specimen.

To have your specimen evaluated, you will need to bring a semen specimen to the office for analysis three months after the surgery. Your Summa Health urologist will test your sperm count to ensure your semen is clear. (In rare cases, the vas deferens may grow back together, allowing you to father children again.) You are NOT considered sterile until you have a specimen evaluated by the physician.

Is a vasectomy right for me?

Discuss what is best for you and your family with your partner, and talk with your doctor. While vasectomy reversals are possible, a vasectomy should be considered a permanent form of male birth control. For easy reference, download this patient guide.

Find a urologist

Check out our growing team of urology specialists, including physicians and advanced practice providers, as well as our four convenient locations. To schedule an appointment, call 330.374.1255.

Blog: Thinking about a vasectomy? 5 things to know 


Options to Request an Appointment

If your situation is an emergency, call 911.