Vasectomy: Recovery

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A vasectomy is one of the simplest forms of surgical, permanent birth control, but you still need to make plans for recovery. As with any surgical procedure, there are risks for complications and a recovery process to consider. Learn what to expect after your vasectomy.

sterility after vasectomy
Verywell / Hilary Allison

Surgery Follow-Up

Immediately after your vasectomy, you should expect some discomfort. While the worst should pass in a matter of days, here's what to expect.

  • Mild pain and swelling should be expected, with the pain being felt up the abdomen or down the legs. It can be relieved with supportive garments, ice packs applied to the scrotum for 20 minutes at a time over the first 48 hours, and Tylenol (acetaminophen).
  • Some discharge or bleeding from your incision is normal. A small gauze bandage may be applied if needed.
  • Plan to rest and limit physical activity for the first day or two after surgery.
  • You can shower the day after your surgery, but you should avoid bathing or swimming for a few weeks. Be sure to pat the surgical area dry after showering. Do not rub.
  • Refrain from physical exercise, strenuous physical work, and sexual activity for at least a week after your surgery, or whatever amount of time is recommended by your healthcare provider.

Your healthcare provider should advise you to call if you experience:

  • A fever above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Increased pain, swelling, or discharge
  • Difficulty urinating
  • A lump in your scrotum

Recovery Timeline

While you should be able to return to normal activity within a week of your vasectomy, there are some situations where your recovery might be delayed or extended.

  • Procedure complications like a hematoma or infection happen in about 1% to 2% of vasectomies.
  • Roughly 1% to 2% of men experience chronic scrotal pain after a vasectomy (called post-vasectomy pain syndrome). If the pain persists, additional medical management may be needed or, in rare cases, another surgical procedure.
  • Fluid buildup can occur in and around the testicle after a vasectomy. These complications can cause unusual swelling or pain that increases with ejaculation.
  • You may experience some inflammation from an immune response that results from sperm leaking into the scrotum from the cut end of the vas deferens. This inflammation is called a sperm granuloma and develops in 15% to 40% of men after a vasectomy. These can usually be treated with mild pain relievers, but surgery may be required in severe cases.
  • In some cases, you may experience a spermatocele. This is an abnormal sac or cyst that forms in the epididymis—a small tube in the upper portion of the testicle that transports sperm. These usually resolve on their own, but may require surgery in severe cases.

Follow-up and Sterility Testing

Vasectomies are not immediately effective. You will need to use an alternative form of birth control until your healthcare provider confirms sterility with at least one semen analysis. This typically takes place at 8 to 16 weeks post-vasectomy.

Your practitioner should schedule a followup appointment for eight to 16 weeks after your vasectomy. Your semen will be tested for the presence of viable sperm. The test can be done in the doctor's office or using a home semen analysis test. You will need to ejaculate roughly 30 times to clear all the sperm from the vas deferens after your vasectomy.

Vasectomies don't always work the first time. Less than 1% of vasectomies are unsuccessful, but in these cases, a repeat vasectomy may be required. A second vasectomy is indicated if viable sperm are present in a semen sample six months after your vasectomy.

Even when a vasectomy is considered successful, it is not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. The risk of pregnancy after vasectomy in men who have been deemed sterile is still about 1 in 2,000.

The goal of a vasectomy is to prevent pregnancy, but it does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

Coping With Recovery

While most men will not experience ongoing complications as a result of their vasectomy, coping with the procedure and the permanent changes that result can be difficult for some.

There are a number of myths associated with vasectomies.

  • A vasectomy will lower my sex drive. This is false. A vasectomy will not impact your masculinity or sex drive. You will still be able to have an erection, but there will no sperm present in the semen.
  • A vasectomy will cause harm to my sexual organs. The risk of permanent damage to the parts of your reproductive system—the penis, testicles, scrotum—is very small. Your organs should continue to function the same as before your vasectomy, and you will have no changes in your hormone (testosterone) levels.
  • A vasectomy could give me cancer or heart disease. There is no proven link between vasectomies and an increased risk of testicular or prostate cancer. The same is true for a link to heart disease.

What Happens If I Change My Mind?

You should carefully weigh your options for birth control before having a vasectomy, as this procedure should be considered permanent. If for some reason you change your mind about your vasectomy, a reversal is an option, but this procedure is expensive and not guranteed to be successful.

A vasectomy reversal is called a vasovasostomy or vasoepididymostomy. A surgeon will perform a microsurgical technique to reconnect the cut ends of the vas deferens and restore the flow of sperm. The more time has passed since the original vasectomy, the less successful this procedure is likely to be, because a complex reversal technique called vasoepididymostomy is more likely to be required. This technique has a lower success rate than a traditional reversal. In one study, a reversal done three years after the initial vasectomy resulted in pregnancy in 76% of cases. Fifteen years after an initial vasectomy, a pregnancy resulted in only 30% of reversals. This procedure is not covered by most insurance plans in the United States and can be costly.

If you are concerned about fathering children in the future but still want to move forward with a vasectomy, you may want to consider sperm banking. Sperm can be collected before or after a vasectomy and stored for about $300 to $1,000 per year, plus initial storage fees.

A Word From Verywell

Recovery from a vasectomy is not usually complicated, but problems can arise. Talk with your healthcare provider before your surgery about why you want a vasectomy, what risks or complications may arise, and what your recovery will look like.

7 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. Cleveland Clinic. Vasectomy (male sterilization): Procedure details.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Vasectomy (male sterilization): Recovery and outlook.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Vasectomy.

  4. American Urological Association. Vasectomy guideline.

  5. Viera AJ. Patient education: Vasectomy. UpToDate.

  6. Urology Care Foundation. What are spermatoceles (spermatic cysts)?

  7. Urology Care Foundation. Vasectomy.

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