Vasectomy: What are the Side Effects?

A vasectomy is one form of permanent birth control.

A vasectomy is considered to be one of the permanent methods of birth control, by preventing the release of sperm during ejaculation. Typically an outpatient procedure, having a vasectomy is relatively safe. However, there are side effects you should be aware of, to ensure you've made an informed decision when deciding whether or not a vasectomy is right for you.

A vasectomy is one form of permanent birth control.
A vasectomy is one form of permanent birth control.

Vasectomy Procedure Overview:

Having a vasectomy is typically an outpatient procedure. It can even be performed in a doctor's office. After a local anesthetic is applied and takes effect, a small incision is made in one side of the scrotum. The vas deferens has a small section removed. The ends are then closed off with either sutures or cauterization. The procedure is then repeated on the other side of the scrotum.

There is a no-scalpel version of the vasectomy, where a small clamp with pointed ends is poked through the skin of the scrotum, then opened.This is typically a smaller opening than scalpel vasectomies. Another variation involves the use of a Vasclip, where the vas deferens is locked closed with the device, instead of cut, then sutured or cauterized.

By disconnecting the vas deferens, sperm is prevented from mixing into the semen. However, the testicles do continue to produce sperm. This sperm is simply reabsorbed by the body, which is the same thing that happens if you haven't ejaculated, after awhile, and you have not had a vasectomy. Other male hormones are still produced and secreted into the blood stream, the same as pre-vasectomy.

A Vasclip can be used in lieu of cutting and suturing or cauterizing the vas deferens.
A Vasclip can be used in lieu of cutting and suturing or cauterizing the vas deferens.

Vasectomy Side Effects:

Despite being a relatively safe and straightforward procedure, there are potential side effects you should be aware of, prior to making your decision on whether or not to get a vasectomy. These include:

  • Slight Reduction in Ejaculate Volume – The fluid that normally carries the sperm from the testes makes up approximately 10 percent of the ejaculate volume. For this reason, following a vasectomy, there will be a slight reduction (most men don't notice it) in your ejaculate volume. However, other factors – smell, taste, and texture – will be the same.
  • Possible Reduction in Sexual Desire – In some studies, 10 to 20 percent of men reported a diminished level of sexual desire, following their vasectomy.
  • Possible Development of Anti-sperm Antibodies – Anti-sperm antibodies are developed in approximately 60 to 70 percent of men, within a year of their vasectomy, preventing the sperm from being reabsorbed into the body. In some of these cases, the built up sperm can increase pressure, resulting in ruptures and causing sperm granulomas to form, to absorb the sperm.
  • Post-Vasectomy Pain Syndrome – A very small percentage of men experience post-vasectomy pain syndrome, as a complication of having a vasectomy. This is a very uncommon condition, which can either be orchialigia pain, where pain is experienced during intercourse, ejaculation or physical exercise, or tender epididymides pain, where a tenderness is constant. Nerve stripping, in these rare cases, is typically successful to provide complete relief.
  • Vasclip Ineffectiveness – In some studies, vasectomies using the Vasclip to clamp off the vas deferens, instead of cutting and suturing or cauterizing, is not as effective in permanently providing birth control.
  • Spontaneous Failure of the Vasectomy –  In very rare cases, the cut ends of the vas deferens may reconnect, making the man fertile once again. In other rare cases, one cut end may open, allowing the sperm to mix again with the semen.