Purpose of a Vasectomy

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that is done to prevent men from being able to produce children. This permanent male birth control is typically done as an outpatient procedure and is generally considered a low-risk surgery. Healthcare providers use a variety of techniques to surgically and permanently cut off the supply of sperm to semen. While vasectomies are technically reversible, the procedure should be considered permanent, since reversals are complicated and not always successful in restoring fertility.

Doctor and patient having a consultatio

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Diagnosis Related to Vasectomy

There is no specific diagnosis or medical problem that would warrant a vasectomy. Instead, it’s an elective—or optional—operation that is performed to prevent pregnancy.

Common Reasons for Vasectomy

While there are several options for male birth control that are less invasive and permanent than a vasectomy, here are some of the common reasons men take this route:

  • They are in a stable relationship where both partners have agreed to a permanent form of birth control.
  • They are in a relationship where pregnancy would be a risk to their partner.
  • The man or his partner have a genetic disorder they could pass on to their child if a pregnancy occurred.

Men who have chosen vasectomy as their preferred method of birth control for themselves and their partner have said that they saw the procedure as less risky than permanent sterilization methods for women, or that they felt it was their turn to take responsibility for the birth control in their relationship.

Factors in not Choosing Vasectomy

Vasectomy may not be the best choice for all men. You may want to consider a vasectomy carefully if you:

  • Aren’t sure that you never want to have children
  • Might have a different partner in the future who might want children
  • Are relying on the ability to reverse a vasectomy later

About Vasectomies

A vasectomy is recognized as the most effective form of male birth control available, with almost 43 million men around the world choosing a vasectomy in 2004. In the United States, vasectomy is fourth among preferred birth control methods, after condoms, oral contraceptives, and tubal ligation—a common form of permanent female sterilization.

Vasectomies are “simpler, faster, safer, and less expensive” than tubal ligation as a form of permanent birth control, yet tubal ligation is done two to three times more often. Urologists recommend that vasectomy be the preferred permanent birth control method around the world.

Most vasectomies (79%) in the United States are performed by urologists. Another 13% are performed by family doctors, and another 8% by general surgeons. The procedure costs between $350 and $1,000 on average, and is more than 98% effective at providing permanent infertility in men who undergo it. Depending on the type of vasectomy being performed, the procedure usually takes 20 to 30 minutes.

Effectiveness of Vasectomy

Vasectomies don't always work, and the results are not immediate. It takes several weeks or 15 to 20 ejaculations to reach sterility. Your healthcare provider will usually request a semen sample six to 16 weeks after the procedure to test for viability. Sometimes, a vasectomy has to be repeated. Alternative birth control should be used until your practitioner confirms that your vasectomy was successful.

Tests and Labs

There are few tests required before a vasectomy, as it is typically done as a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. In considering a vasectomy, you should anticipate a consultation with your healthcare provider about your reasons for wanting a vasectomy, what is involved, and the possible risks. Your practitioner will want to know if you have ever had:

  • A clotting or bleeding disorder
  • Skin allergies or sensitivities
  • Prior allergic reactions to medication or anesthesia
  • Previous injuries or surgeries to the groin or scrotum
  • A history of sexually transmitted disease, or frequent urinary tract or genital infections

Your healthcare provider will also have you complete consent forms for the procedure and advise you on pre-operative hygiene and other preparations. You will likely be asked to stop taking certain medications, such as blood thinners and certain pain relievers, before the procedure.

A Word From Verywell

A vasectomy is an optional surgery that should be considered as a permanent form of birth control for men. While a vasectomy is typically a low-risk procedure, the decision to have this surgery has long-term effects and should be made only after careful consideration and a discussion with your healthcare provider about the possible risks.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Vasectomy. 2020.

  2. American Urological Association. Vasectomy guideline. 2015.

  3. Viera AJ. Vasectomy. UpToDate. 2019.

  4. University of Virginia. Vasectomy: How it works. 2020.

  5. American Pregnancy Association. Male fertility testing after vasectomy.

  6. Cleveland Clinic. Vasectomy (male sterilization): Procedure details. 2020.

By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.