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A vasectomy is a permanent birth control method for men. It does not provide protection against HIV or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

It involves a simple surgical procedure that cuts or seals the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis. Once a vasectomy has been done, sperm will no longer be able to get into the semen (the fluid that comes out of the penis during sex or masturbation). But it takes around three months after a vasectomy for this to happen, so you need to use other forms of contraception until then. You should only have a vasectomy if you’re completely sure that you don't want more, or any, children. And you should never be pressured into having one – a vasectomy is always your own choice!

What is a vasectomy?

A surgical procedure that cuts, blocks or seals the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis. Although vasectomy reversals are possible, vasectomy is considered a permanent type of birth control. It is also known as male sterilisation.

How does a vasectomy work?

Sperm is made in the testicles and leaves them through two tubes called the vas deferens. It then mixes with other fluids to make semen (cum). The sperm in your semen can cause pregnancy if it gets into a woman’s body through the vagina and meets an egg.

A vasectomy blocks or cuts the vas deferens tubes, so that when you ejaculate your semen will not have any sperm in it. It takes around three months after a vasectomy for this to happen. And you will only know if a vasectomy has been successful by having your semen tested.

Your testicles will still make sperm, which your body will naturally absorb. And you will still produce the same amount of semen – it will look the same, it just won’t have any sperm in it.

What does a vasectomy involve?

A vasectomy should take about 15 minutes and you can normally go home the same day. There are two types – the doctor will discuss which option is best for you.

  1. A conventional vasectomy, using a scalpel (a surgical knife)

Your scrotum (ball sac) will be numbed with a local anaesthetic. Two small cuts will be made on each side of your scrotum to reach the vas deferens tubes. Each tube is cut and a small section removed. The ends of the tubes are then closed, either by tying them or sealing them using heat. The cuts are stitched, usually with dissolvable stitches, which disappear in about a week.

  1. A no-scalpel (no-cut) vasectomy

This is the same as a conventional vasectomy, but a tiny puncture hole is made on each side of your scrotum instead of a cut. So there’s no need for stitches. It’s thought to be less painful and less likely to cause complications than a conventional vasectomy.

It’s a good idea to support your scrotum with a bandage and tight-fitting underwear for two days after your vasectomy. It’s normal for your scrotum to feel a bit uncomfortable or be bruised or swollen for a few days. It’s also normal to have blood in your semen the first few times you ejaculate. You shouldn’t exercise or do any hard physical work for about a week after your vasectomy. But after this you should be fine.

You should avoid sex for at least seven days after the vasectomy and use contraception until your semen is sperm free.

About 12 weeks after the vasectomy you’ll need to produce a sample of semen, which will be tested for sperm. Some men may need two tests. If the test shows that your semen is sperm-free you will be unable to get someone pregnant. But you can still pass on or get STIs, including HIV. To prevent this, you need to use a condom.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of vasectomies?


  • A vasectomy is very effective at preventing pregnancy – 99% are successful.
  • Once it’s done you don’t have to think about birth control ever again.
  • It doesn’t affect your ability to get erections, your sex drive or sexual pleasure.
  • It has a low risk of complications or side effects.
  • It can be a simpler and safer alternative to other contraceptive methods.


  • It’s very difficult to reverse. You need to be fully aware of what it involves and completely sure that you do not want more, or any, children.
  • Your scrotum may become bruised, swollen or painful – some men get ongoing pain in their testicles.
  • As with any surgery, there’s a small risk of infection.
  • A vasectomy doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV – only condoms can do this.

Where can I get a vasectomy done?

Private health facilities and NGO-run clinics provide vasectomies in most countries. Vasectomies are also available in public clinics in a lot of countries too. A lot of public clinics and NGO-run clinics provide the service for free.

Let's talk about vasectomies!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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Is it possible to reverse a vasectomy?

Yes. But the procedure isn't always successful and it's rarely available for free. Around one in two reversals that are carried out within 10 years of the vasectomy will be successful. If the reversal is carried out more than 10 years after, only one in four will be successful. This is why you should be completely certain before having a vasectomy.

What advice can I give to someone about vasectomies?

Because vasectomies are considered a permanent birth control method, anyone who is considering having one should think carefully about it.

To help them, give them clear and factual information about what a vasectomy is, what vasectomy surgery and recovery involves, and possible complications.

You should encourage them to take time to think the idea over, and only go ahead if they are sure they do not want more, or any, children. It is a good idea to talk through other contraceptive options with them, and encourage them to use other contraceptive methods until they’re completely sure. Remind them that they will still need to use condoms to prevent STIs, including HIV.

If they have a partner, advise them to discuss getting a vasectomy before they decide.

If someone feels distressed about having a vasectomy it might not be suitable for them. Someone should never be pressured into having a vasectomy. So it is important to make sure it is their choice. In the past, some governments have forced men to have vasectomies  – this is wrong and should never be allowed.

Someone might feel embarrassed about discussing vasectomies with you. If they are, connect them with a friendly healthcare professional, a helpline or factual website, like this one.

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  • Last updated: 21 March 2022
  • Last full review: 10 March 2022
  • Next full review: 10 March 2025
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