So after getting through pregnancy and childbirth, you and your partner have decided not to have any more children. You are looking for a permanent form of birth control and might have heard about vasectomy. So what is this procedure and how effective is it?
What is a vasectomy?
Vasectomy is a simple and short male sterilization procedure, and is considered a most effective contraceptive. Simply put, there are two tubes called vas deferens in the man’s reproductive tract that carry the sperm to the penis (where semen is produced). From here sperm (along with the semen) enters the woman’s vagina during ejaculation – it could then fertilize the egg present in the uterus.
During vasectomy, these tubes are cut surgically. This prevents the sperm produced by the man from getting into the semen. During sex and ejaculation, the semen that enters the vagina will not have any sperm. Since there is no sperm in the semen, the egg in the woman’s uterus cannot be fertilized during intercourse. Hence, no pregnancy!
Is this procedure effective?
You may have heard of a friend who got pregnant even though her partner had a vasectomy done. So just how well does this option really work? Vasectomies have a success rate of almost 99%, but they are not foolproof! While rates of pregnancy are as low as 0.1% after the first year and around 0.2-1% after 5 years, the fact remains that there is a chance that you may end up getting pregnant even if your partner has had a vasectomy.
So how can you be sure if the procedure has worked? Doctors advise that you continue to use a second method of contraception until you’re sure that there is no trace of sperm in the semen. This could mean around 2-3 months after the procedure or 20-25 ejaculations. Get your partner’s semen analysed and only if the analysis shows zero sperm count, should you cease to use any other form of birth control.
How is pregnancy after vasectomy possible?
Even after a vasectomy, there might be live sperm present in a man’s semen for a few months. This means, that there is still a chance that he is not 100% sterile and his partner can get pregnant. The majority of pregnancies after a vasectomy occur during the first few months after the surgery.
Here are three ways by which a pregnancy can occur after a vasectomy:
- “Technical error” due to non-zero sperm count – If you have sex without an alternate form of birth control before confirming that the man’s sperm count is zero, then there is a possibility that pregnancy may occur. Do get a sperm sample analysed for zero sperm count before discarding other contraceptives. If sperm is still present in the semen, then do use other contraceptives until the count goes down to zero. A pregnancy that occurs in such cases is called “technical error or failure”.
- Recanalization or spontaneous natural reversal – There are cases when the sperm are able to escape from the cut end of the vas deferens through tiny microscopic channels in the man’s scar tissue. These may have developed due to sperm granuloma. If the two separated ends of the vas deferens touch or come very close to each other, then the sperm may be able to pass from one part of the tube to the other. This could lead to pregnancy.
- Surgical error – Not that common, but still a possible reason for the vasectomy to fail could be the non-competent handling of the procedure. While general physicians also perform this surgery, it is best to get it done by an urologist. This risk can also be avoided by getting a post-vasectomy semen analysis.
By and large, vasectomies are highly effective, and very popular as a method of permanent birth control. The risks of failure have considerably reduced with the many new surgical techniques now available in this field.
Is Vasectomy Reversal possible?
Yes, it is! If circumstances change and you want to have a child, you have the option to get a vasectomy reversal procedure done. There is, however, no guarantee that the man’s partner will conceive even after this surgery.