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What to Expect After a Vasectomy

Vasectomy recovery time varies, but most men can return to work after two or three days and resume normal physical activity within a week. Here's what you can expect in the days and weeks after your vasectomy.

Immediately after the Procedure

You should be able to go home immediately after the procedure. Be sure to thoroughly read any instructions you get from your doctor, and ask any questions before you leave the office.

Go directly home: The sooner you start resting, the faster your recovery will be. You'll need to arrange for someone else to drive you and to be available to help with any heavy lifting or potentially strenuous activities.

Your doctor will suggest that you wear tight-fitting underwear or an athletic supporter on the ride home, as well as for the next three to four days. This will provide your scrotum with extra support.

The First Week after Your Vasectomy

Rest is the most important part of your post-surgery healing. Expect to spend the first two or three days off your feet, either in bed or on the couch with your feet elevated. You'll also need to avoid bathing or showering for 24 to 48 hours after the procedure to allow the incision in your scrotum to heal faster and to reduce the risk of infection. Your doctor will also prescribe a course of antibiotics to help prevent infection.

The local anesthetic will wear off within a couple of hours. After that, it's normal to experience some cramping in the lower abdomen and discomfort in the area of the scrotum. Minor swelling or bruising of the scrotum is also normal, but this should go away after two weeks. You can use ice packs to soothe the area, and reduce any swelling or discomfort. You can also take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) for minor pain. Although more severe pain is uncommon, your doctor can prescribe stronger medication if you need it. Avoid taking ibuprofen or aspirin the first 48 hours after the procedure, because these can increase the risk of bleeding or bruising around the incision.

If you have more severe swelling or bruising, or if you develop a fever, chills, or pus around the incision, contact your doctor immediately. These could indicate infection or internal bleeding.

Ideally, you should plan to stay home from work--or work from home--for two or three days after the surgery. This will give your body the time it needs to heal. Many men schedule their procedures on a Thursday or Friday in order to allow for additional rest over the weekend. Unless your job involves heavy physical labor, however, you should be able to return to work the next day if you feel ready. After three to seven days, you should be able to resume normal physical activities, including running and biking.

Sex after Vasectomy

A vasectomy will not affect your sex drive or your ability to have erections and ejaculate. Your orgasms should also remain unchanged. Some men experience mild aching in their testicles when sexually aroused, but that typically only lasts for few months after the procedure.

You should wait to have intercourse until at least one week after your surgery. Again, give your body time to heal and wait until you feel ready. Also, keep in mind that you won't be sterile right away. Ejaculate after a vasectomy still contains some sperm, and it takes several months for the sperm remaining in the vas deferens to be ejaculated or harmlessly reabsorbed by the body. Until then, you'll need to continue using some additional form of birth control.

Pregnancy after Vasectomy

After about three months (and/or 20 ejaculations), your doctor will check your sperm count. If your initial check shows that sperm are still present, you'll be asked to continue submitting samples every two months until your sperm count reaches zero. (According to guidelines released in May 2012 by the American Urological Association, you may also be considered sterile if your sample contains fewer than 100,000 non-motile sperm. Be sure to check with your urologist's office to find out which standard they use.)

Once your doctor deems you sterile, you can begin having sex without other contraceptives. Vasectomy is an extremely effective form of birth control: Only 1 to 2 women in every 1,000 get pregnant after their partners have had a vasectomy. (A vasectomy does not protect against sexual transmitted diseases, however, so use a condom if your sexual relationship is not exclusive.)

Because of the procedure's permanence, you should be certain that you do not want to have children in the future. If you think you might one day change your mind, either put off the surgery until you're sure or consider banking your sperm. Vasectomies can be reversed, but the reversal procedure is expensive and not always successful.

Reviewed October 17, 2012 by Larry Lipshultz, MD - Urologist

References

Trussell J. Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In R.A. Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., New York: Ardent Media. 2007:19-47.

Clenney T.L., & Higgins J.C. Vasectomy techniques. American Family Physician. 1999; 60(1):137-146.

Cutie C.J., & Ongaro T.J. Patient information: Vasectomy (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate. 2012.

Schwingl P.J., & Guess H.A. Safety and effectiveness of vasectomy. Fertil Steril. 2000; 73(5):923-936.

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