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Can You Reverse a Vasectomy?
Updated on June 9, 2023
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Can You Reverse a Vasectomy?

Yes. While vasectomies are designed to be permanent, they can be reversed with a surgery known as a vasectomy reversal. Medically, this is called vasovasostomy or a vasoepididymostomy. 

Vasectomy reversals allow men who have undergone vasectomies to have children again. You can have it even several decades after a vasectomy.

Many couples have been able to conceive naturally after a vasectomy reversal—with pregnancy rates of up to 90 percent.1

What is a Vasectomy?

A vasectomy (vuh-sek’-tuh-mee) or male sterilization is a surgery for men to keep their female partner/s from getting pregnant. It’s a type of birth control for men who have sex with female partners.

During the procedure, the doctor will cut and block the vas deferens. 

“Anatomically, the testes are responsible for sperm and male sex hormone production. However, these sperm are not yet mature enough to be able to fertilize an egg cell for reproduction,” says our in-house medical practitioner and expert, Dr. Rizza Mira.

The vas deferens are small tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the epididymides--- this is where the sperm mature and become capable of fertilizing eggs.

The goal is to prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from maturing and mixing with the semen. So when semen is ejaculated, it will no longer contain sperm.

A vasectomy is an outpatient surgery that typically lasts 10 to 30 minutes. It can be done at a hospital or your doctor’s office.

You can leave shortly after the procedure to recover at home.

Are Vasectomies Safe?

Yes. A vasectomy is a safe procedure with a very low risk for long-term complications.

While it can leave you with bruises, swelling, pain, and a slight risk for infection, these risks are expected from surgery and do not last long.

A vasectomy won’t affect your hormones and sex drive or cause sexual dysfunction.2,3 You can still have an erection, enjoy sex, and be able to orgasm.

Studies show that vasectomies do not increase your risk for diseases. These include prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disease.3

Are Vasectomies Painful?

No. You will be given a local anesthesia so you won’t feel pain while the vasectomy is being performed.

You may feel a slight sting when the anesthetic is injected into the upper part of your scrotum, below the penis. But it should be numb within minutes.

During the surgery, you may feel a pulling or tugging sensation around the area. It can cause mild discomfort though it won’t be painful.

How Effective Is A Vasectomy?

A vasectomy is nearly 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.3 However, it takes at least two months to be fully effective.

Some mature sperm already present in the epididymis will continue to be present in the ejaculate even weeks after your surgery. Since the sperm is mature, your partner can still get pregnant.

Wait for your doctor to check your sperm count 8 to 16 weeks after a vasectomy. 

They can tell you if the vasectomy is already working as birth control or if you need to wait a few more weeks before you can have unprotected sex.

Before & After a Vasectomy

If you decide to undergo a vasectomy, here are a few things to keep in mind before and after the surgery.

What Should I Do Before a Vasectomy?

It isn’t common practice, but you may want to consider sperm banking just in case you change your mind in the future.

Your mature sperm will be collected (sperm retrieval) and frozen (cryopreservation). It can help produce viable embryos for pregnancy through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Days before your surgery, you should stop taking blood-thinning medications because they may potentially cause you to bleed more. Examples include:

  • Aspirin
  • Heparin
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Over-the-counter pain medications (e.g., Ibuprofen)
  • Warfarins (e.g., Coumadin and Jantoven)

Doctors also run some laboratory and diagnostic examinations to clear the patient from complications of the surgery.

On the day of the surgery, you should take a bath, wash your genital area, and trim your pubic hair if necessary. This can help reduce your risk for infection.

Remember to bring supportive underwear that you can wear after the surgery. It will keep your scrotum snug, prevent further injury, and minimize swelling.

What Should I Do After a Vasectomy?

Wear tight-fitting underwear for at least 48 hours after the surgery. You should also rest for the next 24 hours and avoid any physical activity—including driving. Strenuous physical activities are strictly prohibited.

You can begin doing light activities and return to work after two to three days. 

But you should continue avoiding strenuous activities like working out and lifting for a week or so, as these might cause pain and bleeding in the scrotum.

You also shouldn’t have sex or ejaculate until your doctor says it’s safe to do so. It may cause unwanted pregnancy, bleeding, and your stitches to open up.

When to Go to the E.R. After a Vasectomy

Very few men who undergo a vasectomy experience serious health issues. That said, you still need to watch for possible complications, such as:

  • Chronic pain
  • Fluid build-up in the testicles
  • Pain that gets worse with ejaculation
  • Inflammation from leaking sperm
  • Formation of an abnormal cyst (spermatocele)
  • Formation of a fluid-filled sac (hydrocele)
  • Swollen testicles

“A rare condition called post-vasectomy syndrome is observed in some men. This condition is self-limiting, and can be relieved by anti-inflammatory medications,” says Dr. Mira.

If you have these signs and symptoms after a vasectomy, you need to inform your doctor and head to the emergency room.

When Should You Consider a Vasectomy?

Vasectomies cause male infertility. You should only consider a vasectomy if:

  • You’re 100% sure that you don’t want any or more children
  • Your partner’s health may be put at risk if she gets pregnant
  • You and/or your partner are carriers of genetic disorders that you don’t want your future children to have

Remember to talk to your partner about the procedure and decide together. 

If you’re unsure about not having children, you should consider temporary birth control methods—like contraceptive pills, injectables, condoms, and implants.

Is Vasectomy Reversal Possible?

Yes. It’s possible to reverse a vasectomy after you’ve had it. It may involve surgical procedures known as vasovasostomy (VV) or vasoepididymostomy (VE).

Much like a vasectomy, a vasectomy reversal is an outpatient procedure. It usually lasts 3 to 4 hours, but it can be longer in some cases.

Are There Irreversible Vasectomies?

No. Vasectomies are meant to be a permanent birth control method, so it isn’t possible to have a temporary vasectomy.

If you’ve had a vasectomy and decided later on that you want to have children, your only option is to undergo a vasectomy reversal.

How Does Vasectomy Reversal Work?

During the reversal of a vasectomy, the sperm ducts (vas deferens) that were cut and sealed by a previous vasectomy are either:

  • Surgically stitched together via a VV
  • Reconnected to the epididymides via a VE

Both procedures allow sperm to reach the epididymides, where they can mature and mix with semen—making you fertile again. 

“Sperm count testing is usually done as a next step to determine if the reversal worked. Pregnancy is also expected about 4 months after the procedure,” says Dr. Mira.

Vasectomy reversals can be performed under local, regional, or general anesthesia. It can take 5 to 14 days or more to recover from the procedure.

Can You Naturally Reverse a Vasectomy?

No. You can’t reverse a vasectomy without surgery. 

Once your doctor confirms that your semen no longer carries sperm, the vasectomy is permanent unless you undergo a vasectomy reversal.

It’s not possible for the small tubes (vas deferens) that were cut during a vasectomy to naturally realign or reverse themselves.

How Effective Are Vasectomy Reversal Procedures?

Most vasectomy reversals are effective. When performed by an experienced microsurgeon, they can have a 90 to 95 percent success rate.4

Vasovasostomy procedures have higher success rates of 90 to 95 percent than a vasoepididymostomy which has a 65 to 70 percent success rate.4

A successful reversal surgery doesn’t guarantee pregnancy. You have to consider other factors that affect pregnancy rates, such as:

  • Your female partner’s age at the time you’ve had a reversal
  • Your sperm count and the quality of your sperm

However, many couples have been able to conceive naturally after the procedure—especially a vasovasostomy.5

Are Vasectomy Reversals Less Successful With Age?

Some doctors say that vasectomy reversals are less likely to be successful as you age or if you wait longer before you get one.

However, experts at Yale and Stanford Medicine were able to perform successful reversals in men who have undergone vasectomies 10 to 30 years prior.3,4

Getting Pregnant After Vasectomy Reversal

You and your partner can start having sex two to four weeks after a vasectomy reversal surgery. But it can take longer to get your partner pregnant.

Your semen may not contain sperm for a month or up to a year. This depends on:

  • The type of surgery performed by your doctor
  • How long it’s been since you had a vasectomy

Some women become pregnant within months of a reversal. For others, it can take years. Your doctor will perform a semen analysis to assess your fertility.

Once they confirm that your semen contains healthy and fertile sperm, you and your partner can begin trying for pregnancy.

Updated on June 9, 2023
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5 sources cited
Updated on June 9, 2023
  1. Vasectomy reversal.” Mayo Clinic.

  2. How effective is a vasectomy?” Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 

  3. Review of Vasectomy Complications and Safety Concerns.” The World Journal of Men’s Health, National Center for Biotechnology Information. 

  4. Vasectomy Reversal.” Stanford Medicine Health Care.

  5. Vasectomy Reversal (Vasovasostomy).” Yale Medicine.

Dr. Rizza Mira
Dr. Rizza Mira
Medical Reviewer
Dr. Rizza Mira is a medical doctor and a general practitioner who specializes in pediatrics, nutrition, dietetics, and public health.

As a pediatrician, she is dedicated to the general health and well-being of children and expecting parents. She believes that good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle, and prevention of illness are key to ensuring the health of children and their families.

When she’s not in the hospital, Rizza advocates and mobilizes causes like breastfeeding, vaccination drives, and initiatives to prevent illness in the community.
Ada Sandoval
Ada Sandoval
Content Contributor
Ada Sandoval is a B.S. in Nursing graduate and a registered nurse with a heart for abandoned animals. She works as a content writer who specializes in medical-related articles and pet health.
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