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Thinking you’ll have a long recovery? Think again.

A vasectomy is a big decision. There’s a lot to consider — including recovery. Knowing what to expect in the healing process can make things go a little smoother.

Getting things rolling

Before you have a vasectomy, you’ll start by meeting with your healthcare provider. They’ll ask a few questions to help you decide if the procedure is right for you. Some things they may discuss with you:

  • Your plans for children in the future
  • How your partner (if you have one) feels about your decision
  • Other birth control methods
  • What to expect from the procedure
  • That you understand a vasectomy is permanent

What happens during a vasectomy?

You’ll have the vasectomy done at a doctor’s office or surgical center. The whole process usually takes about a half hour. During the procedure, your provider will:

  • Numb the area with a local anesthetic
  • Make a small incision or puncture in the upper part of the scrotum
  • Withdraw part of the tube that carries semen, called the vas deferens
  • Cut and seal the vas deferens using heat, surgical clips or another method
  • Close the incision with stitches or surgical glue

Then you’ll go home to start recuperating.

The vasectomy recovery process

Once you get home, you’ll need to rest for at least 24 hours. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed. Just take it easy and stay as comfortable as possible until you get back to normal. So how long does that take?

“After a vasectomy, most men resume their regular activities within 48 hours,” says Brant Fulmer, MD, chair of the urology department at Geisinger.

But you’ll want to avoid heavy lifting, contact sports and sex for a week or so. “Avoid lifting more than 50 pounds for about two weeks after the procedure,” says Dr. Fulmer. “This helps reduce the risk of prolonged swelling and pain.”

When you’re ready to return to your normal schedule, do it gradually to prevent injuries.

To make your recovery go as smoothly as possible:

Ice the area

To help with swelling, Dr. Fulmer recommends using ice packs on your scrotum intermittently for the first 24 to 48 hours. Wrap your ice pack in a towel and apply for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Don’t have an ice pack? A bag of frozen vegetables makes a good substitute.

Stop the soreness

You may feel some discomfort for the first few days after your procedure. Take some ibuprofen or acetaminophen to manage any pain. Another way to keep discomfort to a minimum: Avoid strenuous activities like going to the gym for a few days.

Consider your clothing

Your provider may suggest wearing compression shorts, an athletic supporter or snug-fitting underwear for a few days while you heal. A pair of specialty post-vasectomy underwear can offer proper support — and some even offer the added bonus of built-in ice packs.

Besides the underwear, you’ll want to break out your comfy clothes. Think sweatpants, basketball shorts or pajamas.

Other things that help with healing include elevating your feet and keeping the area clean and dry.

What happens after recovery?

You’ll have a follow-up appointment with your provider approximately three months after your procedure. During this visit, your provider will have you give a semen sample, which they’ll check for sperm. 

“By checking for sperm, they’ll know whether the procedure worked,” says Dr. Fulmer.

If sperm are still present after your follow-up, your provider will help you determine next steps.

Be sure to use a backup method of birth control until this appointment. That way you won’t have to worry about an unintended pregnancy.

Contemplating a vasectomy?

Before scheduling a vasectomy, discuss your lifestyle and plans. Are you and your partner sure that having children (or more children) isn’t in your future? Make sure your decision is firm before you move forward. 

“Vasectomy should be considered permanent sterilization and not a temporary fix,” stresses Dr. Fulmer.

If you’re certain, talk to your primary care doctor or schedule an appointment with a urologist.

They’ll talk through all the details with you and start the process.

Next steps:  

Learn about urology care at Geisinger
Is there a link between erectile dysfunction and heart disease?
What does your urine color mean?

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