Sterilisation is a permanent form of contraception that involves an operation that stops eggs and sperm coming into contact.
A vasectomy involves cutting and sealing or tying the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis. Though a person can still ejaculate after a vasectomy, their semen will not contain sperm.
Once you are sterilised it is very difficult to reverse the process, so it's important to consider the other options available before making your decision. Sterilisation reversal is not usually available on the NHS.
In recent years, many more couples in their 30s and 40s are opting for efficient and long lasting contraceptives instead of sterilisation, as more couples are choosing to have families later in life.
Sterilisation is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Most vasectomies are carried out under local anaesthetic, and you can usually go home the same day. You will not feel any pain, though it may be slightly uncomfortable. You will need to use contraception for up to 8 weeks after the operation, and will have to return to the doctor for up to two semen tests to check that all the sperm have gone.
The tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are cut, blocked or sealed with heat. Your semen will not contain sperm, so your semen cannot fertilise your partner’s egg.
The tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis are cut, blocked or sealed with heat. There are two types of vasectomy procedure:
The skin of your scrotum is numbed with local anaesthetic. The doctor makes two small cuts, about 1cm long, on each side of your scrotum to access the tubes that carry sperm from your testicles. 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 incisions are stitched, usually using dissolvable stitches, which will disappear naturally within about a week.
This procedure is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. The doctor will feel for the vas deferens tubes (the tubes that carry sperm) underneath the skin of your scrotum and then hold them in place using a small clamp.
A special instrument is then used to make a tiny puncture hole in the skin of the scrotum. A small pair of forceps is used to open up the hole, allowing the surgeon to access the vas deferens without needing to cut the skin with a scalpel. The tubes are then closed in the same way as in a conventional vasectomy, either by being tied or sealed.
During a no-scalpel vasectomy, there will be little bleeding and no stitches. The procedure is also thought to be less painful and less likely to cause complications than a conventional vasectomy.
These are very rare, however:
Yes, vasectomy is available on the NHS.
Wearing close-fitting clean underwear, such as Y-fronts, during the day and at night will help to support your scrotum and will also help ease any discomfort or swelling.
Most people will be fit to return to work one or two days after their vasectomy, but you should avoid sport and heavy lifting for at least one week after the operation.
You should speak to your GP or local sexual health clinic.
It is a big decision to end the part of your life where you could have a biological child. If you feel anxious or uncomfortable about the procedure, or if you think you would suffer mentally from being infertile, then it is not the best type of contraception for you.
You can discuss alternatives with your GP or with a professional at a contraception clinic (sometimes called a family planning clinic).
Vasectomy does not affect your hormone levels or sex drive.
Although prostate cancer and testicular cancer can occur in people who have had a vasectomy, research suggests that vasectomy does not increase your risk of cancer.
The surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits of both methods with you.
It is considered permanent. It can be reversed but is not always successful and is not usually available on the NHS.
After vasectomy it will take up to 20 ejaculations to clear the sperm from the tubes and during this time there is still a risk of pregnancy. At least 8 weeks after the procedure you will need to produce a semen sample which will be checked for sperm. You will need to use another method of contraception until you have two clear semen tests.