Contraceptive Pearl: Vasectomy

In the United States, 5% of men have had a vasectomy, while 15% of women have had some form of permanent sterilization. Low-income non-white men are much less likely to undergo vasectomy than high-income white men. 

Compared to female sterilization, vasectomy is simpler, less expensive, and less likely to cause complications. Vasectomy efficacy exceeds 99%. Given its many advantages, why is vasectomy so under-used?

Many people fear that vasectomy will harm them. When counseling patients who are finished with childbearing, clinicians can assure them that vasectomy reliably ends fertility without impairing sexual function. In fact, some people experience an improvement in libido and sexual pleasure when they no longer need to worry about pregnancy. Vasectomy does not cause cancer. Serious complications (pain, bleeding, and infection) are rare. Regret may occur, especially for younger patients who enter a new relationship.

Vasectomy can be performed in a primary care office using local anesthesia. The no-scalpel technique requires no cutting or suturing, and leads to a quicker recovery. After any type of vasectomy, patients must use a back-up contraceptive method for about three months, until a semen analysis shows no sperm. 

There are only five countries worldwide where vasectomy is more widely used than female sterilization. Let’s educate patients about vasectomy. We should promote this sensible choice for sterilization. 


Featured Resources

Permanent Birth Control


Featured Sources

Baron MA, Hutchinson PL, Johnson CH, Hsia J, Wheeler J. “Vasectomy in the United States, 2002.” The Journal of Urology. 176(1):232-6; discussion 236. doi:10.1016/S0022-5347(06)00507-6.


Pharma-free: The Reproductive Health Access Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies. We do not promote specific brands of medication or products. The information in the Contraceptive Pearls is unbiased, based on science alone.

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