Male sterilisation (vasectomy) is a permanent method of contraception that's carried out on a man.
During a minor operation, the tubes that carry sperm from a man's testicles to the penis are cut, blocked or sealed with heat. It's usually carried out under local anaesthetic, and takes about 15 minutes. There is no known side effects on a man's hormones or pleasure from having a vasectomy.
Female sterilisation involves an operation that permanently prevents a woman from being able to get pregnant. It's usually carried out under general anaesthetic, and involves blocking or sealing the fallopian tubes. This is more complicated than a vasectomy.
How effective is it?
For a vasectomy the lifetime failure rate is about 1 in 2,000. This means that 1 out of 2,000 men who are sterilised will get a woman pregnant during the rest of his lifetime.
For female sterilisation there's an overall lifetime failure rate of about 1 in 200. This means that 1 out of every 200 women using sterilisation as contraception will get pregnant during the rest of her lifetime.
- Sterilisation is considered permanent. Once it's done, you don't have to think about contraception again.
Vasectomy - What else should I know?
- Vasectomy is simpler, safer, cheaper and takes less time to recover than female sterilisation
- You need to use contraception for about eight weeks after the operation because sperm stay in the tubes leading to the penis.
- Two semen tests are done after the operation to ensure that all the sperm have gone.
- Your scrotum may become bruised, swollen or painful. Some men have ongoing pain in their testicles.
- As with any surgery, there's a slight risk of infection.
- Reversing the operation isn't easy, and is not usually available on the NHS.
Female Sterilisation - What else should I know?
- If there is an option for male sterilisation this is best as it is less comlicated and has less risk.
- You need to use contraception until the operation is done, and for four weeks afterwards.
- As with any surgery, there's a small risk of complications. These include internal bleeding, infection or damage to other organs.
- There's a small risk that the operation won't work. Blocked tubes can rejoin immediately or years later.
- If the operation fails, this may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg implants outside the womb, usually in a fallopian tube).
- The operation is difficult to reverse.
Sterilisation doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so use a condom to protect yourself and your partner against STIs.