So you’ve had a vasectomy for permanent birth control, but now you’re having second thoughts. You’re not alone. According to Dr. Larry Lipshultz, M.D., out of about 600,000 men who undergo a vasectomy every year in North America, approximately 5% to 10% will later have a vasectomy reversal. You might change your mind about having children due to a major event in your life (i.e. losing a child or remarrying). Some men decide to undergo the procedure to address testicular pain that may be caused by a vasectomy.
Will It Work?
A vasectomy is intended to be a permanent form of male birth control. There is no guarantee that a vasectomy reversal will be successful. The greater the amount of time that elapses between the two procedures, the lower the success rate tends to be. According to WebMD, vasectomy reversals performed within three years of the original procedure have the greatest chance for success.
Preparing for the Procedure
Before the surgery, talk to your doctor about the procedure itself so that you know what to expect. Understand the potential risks involved and what to expect during the recovery. Provide your doctor with a full medical history, including any medications or supplements you take.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination to make sure there are no health complications. If you have not previously fathered a child, your doctor may perform a testicular biopsy to see if you can produce healthy sperm. You may be asked to stop taking certain medications prior to the surgery.
Arrange to have someone drive you home from the hospital. A vasectomy reversal is usually performed on an outpatient basis. Bring a clean athletic supporter with you to the hospital. This will be used to hold the bandages in place and support your scrotum.
Your doctor may administer a general anesthesia to put you to sleep, or you might have a spinal anesthetic. There are two approaches to a vasectomy reversal: a vasovasostomy and a vasoepididymostomy.
This approach is more commonly used. It involves stitching together the ends of the vas deferens. The vas deferens is the tube that carries sperm; it was severed during your vasectomy. First, the doctor will make an incision on the scrotum to expose the testicle. An incision will be made in the vas deferens. The doctor will examine the fluid inside the tube. If the doctor determines that the fluid is healthy and full of sperm, he will proceed with the vasovasostomy. If the fluid is blocked by scar tissue from the vasectomy, he may perform a vasoepididymostomy.
This approach is a bit more complicated than a vasovasostomy. It involves attaching the vas deferens directly to the epididymis. The epididymis is the coiled tube located behind each testicle. This method allows the sperm to flow through the vas deferens, bypassing the scar tissue.
Expect to refrain from physical activity for at least three weeks. The pain should subside in a few days to a week. The stitches will dissolve within 10 days. You’ll need to refrain from ejaculating and sexual activity for two to four weeks. You’ll need to wear a jockstrap continually for several weeks, except while showering.
Your doctor will examine your semen for sperm about six weeks after the vasectomy reversal. He will likely continue to check your semen every two to three months until sperm is present. It may take a few months, a year, or even longer for sperm to reappear in your semen.
Even if the procedure fails, you do have other options for fathering a child. The surgeon may have been able to extract sperm during the surgery itself, which can be used for in vitro fertilization. It may also be possible for the doctor to use a needle to extract sperm directly from your testicle.