How Effective is a Vasectomy?


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A vasectomy, along with tubal ligation (female steralisation) is the most effective long term method of contraception.  However, in rare cases, about 0.6- 1%, there is a chance that the tubes will heal and naturally join together again. More importantly however, the failure of a vasectomy can be divided into short and long term failure. Short term failure and failure in general as compared with a tubal ligation is less of a problem as it is often picked up on following surgery. For women it is impossible to tell the effectiveness except by an accidental pregnancy.

Short & Long Term Failure of a Vasectomy

Short term failures occur following the initial procedure quite quickly as you are healing. This can be identified easily because semen tests are taken afterwards to ensure that the vasectomy has worked. If there are traces of semen found, you will be offered a second procedure to correct the situation and try again. This should be free as the healing occurred immediately following the vasectomy.

Long term failure is the same process whereby the tubes naturally join together again but this can happen at any time, after any number of years after the operation. Although long term failure is rare, it is also possible and a good way of ensuring that your surgery is still effective is to undergo semen testing yearly or as often as you like. Although there is usually a small fee for this, it can provide you with reassurance that the surgery is still effective and stop unwanted accidental pregnancy. If you choose not to have the yearly semen tests, the first instance by which you would find out that the surgery has not been effective will be on the basis of a pregnancy so it is worth considering.

Effectiveness of Vasectomy Vs Other Contraception

A vasectomy is the most effective way of preventing pregnancy compared to other methods. The effectiveness of natural methods such as withdrawal is the lowest, with as little as 91% effectiveness. Using female birth control techniques such as a diaphragm is about 94% effective, with a male condom being 97% effective overall. However, combining methods if possible, can raise the effectiveness considerably.

Female hormonal control techniques are comparable to a vasectomy in their effectiveness and do not require surgery of any kind. However, one of the major problems affecting how well the pill works, for example, is forgetting to take it. Clearly one of the main advantages of having a vasectomy is that after the initial surgery there is little time needed to be devoted to birth control. Some women pay for the contraceptive pill so a vasectomy can also reduce costs.


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