Understanding Vasectomy

Vasectomy is a simple, safe procedure that makes a man sterile (unable to father a child). It is the most effective birth control method for men.

Your Reproductive System

For pregnancy to occur, a man’s sperm (male reproductive cells) must join with a woman’s egg. To understand how a vasectomy works, you need to know how sperm are produced, stored, and released by the body:

  • The urethra is the tube in the center of the penis. It transports both urine and semen. When you have an orgasm, semen is ejaculated out of the urethra.

  • The seminal vesicles and the prostate gland secrete fluids called semen. This sticky, white fluid helps nourish sperm and carry them along.

  • The epididymis is a coiled tube that holds the sperm while they mature.

  • The scrotum is a pouch of skin that contains the testes.

  • The testes are glands that produce sperm and male hormones.

  • The vas deferens are tubes that carry the sperm from the epididymis to the penis.

  • Sperm (shown magnified) carry genetic material.

Cutaway view of male reproductive systemCutaway view of male reproductive system

How a Vasectomy Works

During the procedure, the 2 vas deferens are cut and sealed off. This prevents sperm from traveling from the testes to the penis. It is the only change in your reproductive system. The testes still produce sperm. But since the sperm have nowhere to go, they die and are absorbed by your body. Only a very small amount of semen is made up of sperm. So after a vasectomy, your semen won’t look or feel any different.

Keep In Mind

After a vasectomy, some active sperm still remain in the reproductive system. It will take about 3 months and numerous ejaculations before the semen is completely free of sperm. Until then, you’ll need to use another form of birth control.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Shapiro, Charles E, MD, FACS
Online Medical Reviewer: Shinghal, Rajesh, MD
Last Review Date: 10/26/2011
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