It's natural to be concerned about having a vasectomy, but talking with your doctor and learning how it's done can prepare you for a stress-free experience and a smooth recovery. Here's what to expect at each step of the way.
Before: Preparing for a vasectomy procedure
- Preparation for a vasectomy starts about a week in advance, when you'll have to start monitoring your medications. In order to reduce the risk of bleeding, you'll be asked to stop taking aspirin and other blood-thinning medications. These include heparin and warfarin (Coumadin), as well as over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®, and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and supplements such as vitamin E and fish oil.
- You will be asked to clean your genital area thoroughly on the day of your surgery. Your doctor may also ask you to shave the front part of your scrotum.
- If you tend to get nervous or tense about surgeries, your doctor might prescribe something to help you relax, which you'll take 30 minutes to an hour before the procedure.
- Before you leave the house, you should pack a pair of tight-fitting underwear or an athletic supporter to wear after the vasectomy. Be sure you're wearing loose-fitting pants, and make arrangements for someone else to drive you home.
During: Information about the surgery and the steps involved
Although your doctor's appointment may be scheduled to last an hour, the procedure itself takes only 20 to 30 minutes. Here's what to expect during surgery. (Different vasectomy techniques involve different steps, but the basics are below.)
- At your doctor's office, the prep nurse will wash your scrotum and may also shave it if you haven't already done so at home.
- If you're feeling anxious, your doctor may give you medication, either orally or intravenously, to help you relax. This drug could make you sleepy, as well as make it difficult to remember the procedure.
- The surgeon will apply anesthetic, either with a very small needle or a jet anesthetic (called a no-needle vasectomy procedure). This will numb only the area around the tube that carries the sperm, the vas deferens.
- For each testicle, your doctor will first locate the vas deferens, make one or two small incisions in the upper part of your scrotum, then pull out a small loop of the vas deferens, sever it, and often remove a small section. This part may cause a small tugging sensation.
- If the surgeon cut the vas tube, she will then seal the ends of the vas deferens by stitching, tying, or cauterizing it with heat. Then she'll tuck it back into the scrotum and stitch up the incision. Once healed, it should leave only a small scar.
After: What to expect after the surgery is over
You should be able to go home shortly after the vasectomy is completed. You will need to have someone else drive you home and help with tasks that involve heavy lifting or strenuous movement for about a week.
After surgery, your scrotum will be numb for 1 to 2 hours. Once the local anesthetic wears off, you may feel some pain or discomfort that--along with minor bruising and swelling--can last for several days. Your doctor should offer to prescribe medication that can help with the pain.
Your surgeon will also give you a few guidelines that can help speed recovery and reduce discomfort, including:
- Rest for two to three days after surgery, lying down as much as possible. Avoid heavy lifting, sports, and strenuous work for about a week.
- Avoid bathing or swimming for 24 to 48 hours.
- Wear a jockstrap, bandage, or tight-fitting underwear for at least 48 hours after surgery to prevent unnecessary movement of your testicles.
- Periodically apply cold packs to the area for one to three days after surgery to prevent or reduce swelling.
- Continue to avoid blood-thinning medications for up to a week.
- Contact your doctor immediately if you have a fever, increased pain or swelling, or signs of an infection, such as blood or pus leaking from the site of surgery.
Click here for more information on what to expect after a vasectomy.
Reviewed September 23, 2012, by Karen Elizabeth Boyle, MD - Urologist
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Labrecque M., Nazerali H., Mondor M., Fortin V., & Nasution M. Effectiveness and complications associated with 2 vasectomy occlusion techniques. Journal of Urology. 2002; 168(6): 2495-2498.