When a man chooses to have a vasectomy, it may feel like a permanent choice.
It doesn’t have to be. Most men are candidates for vasectomy reversal, a simple procedure that allows them to start or expand a family. Edmund Sabanegh, MD, Chair of Urology at Cleveland Clinic, offers insight.
Dr. Sabanegh says he sees a growing demand for vasectomy reversal — in part because more men are aware it’s an option.
Life’s circumstances often spur the decision: a new marriage, the loss of a child or a couple simply deciding they want children (or more children). Patients are often surprised to realize they can restore their fertility.
“These are some of the happiest patients I see in my practice,” Dr. Sabanegh says. “Lots of couples had resigned themselves to never having children. They’re quite a happy group when they discover they can.”
In a vasectomy, a surgeon clamps or reroutes the vas deferens — the internal tubing that carries sperm from your testicles and out of the penis. A vasectomy reversal is a minimally invasive procedure that restores that passageway.
Surgeons use microsurgery techniques — including stitches that are finer than a human hair — to put your tubing back together. “Surgery is fairly quick, two hours or so,” Dr. Sabanegh says. “You wake up in the recovery room and are able to go home that day.”
“I’ve had couples report conceiving literally three weeks to the day after a vasectomy reversal.”
This is a surprise to many men, Dr. Sabanegh says. But after a vasectomy, your testicles continue to produce sperm. It just no longer has a way out of the body.
Because of this, your normal fertility is restored by a reversal. You’ll be asked to abstain from sex for three weeks or so for healing, but then you can start trying to conceive.
“I’ve had couples report conceiving literally three weeks to the day after a vasectomy reversal,” Dr. Sabanegh notes.
There’s a common misconception that if a man had his vasectomy years ago, a reversal will not succeed. “That’s generally not true,” Dr. Sabanegh says. “We’ve done reversals on men who are decades out from vasectomy and had success.”
The bigger concerns are whether everything went smoothly with the original vasectomy — meaning there was no unintended damage — and whether anything has affected your testicles in the meantime. For example, if you have been through radiation or chemotherapy to treat cancer, your fertility may be affected.
Men who are interested in a vasectomy reversal — and their partners — should be examined beforehand for any fertility issues.
If you or your partner has low fertility, vasectomy reversal may not be your best bet, Dr. Sabanegh says. But you may still have options to have children, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF). A doctor can walk you through these options to find what is best for you and your family.