In the United States, vasectomy emerged as a popular method of permanent contraception during the 1960s. Within a decade, 750,000 men were undergoing vasectomies each year. Vasectomy rates markedly declined in the 1990s and have now leveled off at about 500,000 a year. Worldwide, millions of couples use vasectomy as a method of permanent birth control. [For non-permanent methods of birth control, including condoms, see In-Depth Report #91: Birth control options for women. ]
The procedure works by surgically interrupting the route that the sperm take from the testicles (where they are produced) to the penis. After vasectomy, the testicles still continue to generate sperm, but their movement is blocked at the site of the vasectomy. Eventually the sperm die, and the body naturally absorbs them. During sex, semen is produced in the same amount as before vasectomy, but this fluid does not contain sperm.
|Click the icon to see an animation about vasectomy.|
Vasectomy should not be confused with castration. It has no noticeable impact on a man's ability to perform sexually, or on his sensation of orgasm and pleasure. It does not affect the balance of male hormones, male sex characteristics, or sex drive. Testosterone continues to be produced in the testes and delivered into the bloodstream. Sperm form a very small portion of semen, so patients notice no difference in the amount of semen produced during orgasm.
The Male Reproductive Tract
Review Date: 11/04/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.