It is said that patience is a virtue, but when it comes to vasectomies, exhibiting some self- restraint can also be what stands in the way of an unwanted pregnancy.
While the procedure itself—which is performed as an outpatient surgery with a low risk of complications or side effects—is nearly 100 percent effective, guys need to continue to use some back-up form of birth control before the contraceptive benefits kick in.
In other words, you could possibly jump through all of the vasectomy hoops, which include a little soreness and decrease in physical activity for a few days, and still end up with a baby if you have sex too soon.
During a vasectomy, your urologist cuts and sealsl the tubes that carry sperm to the urethra (called the vas deferens) to prevent the sperm from being ejaculated along with semen. Sperm will continue to be produced in the testicles following a vasectomy, but won’t have any place to go and will eventually be absorbed by the body.
But right after the vasectomy, some sperm still get “grandfathered in” and remain poised to fertilize an egg. In fact, experts recommend you wait several months, or 15-20 ejaculations before you’ve cleared the proverbial deck of viable sperm.
Since it only takes one sperm to fertilize a woman’s egg, it stands to reason you need to keep using a back-up form of contraceptive post vasectomy until your sperm level have dropped significantly.
Testing your sperm after a vasectomy
Most doctors suggest a follow-up office visit about 6-12 weeks following a vasectomy in order to test sperm levels. During the visit, you are asked to masturbate to provide a semen sample or use a special condom to collect semen during intercourse.
A quick and easy alternative to lengthy doctor’s visits and awkward situations is to pick up SpermCheck, an easy-to-use, accurate test that you can take at home to test the success of your vasectomy by measuring the sperm in your semen. This simple test quickly lets you or your doctor know when the number of sperm has dropped to a very low level and it is safe to stop using other methods of birth control.
When vasectomies fail
When sperm continue to be present in the semen after a certain period of time, the vasectomy is considered a failure. Sometimes, the two cut ends of the vas deferens can rejoin to form a complete tube, which is known as recanalization. Post-vasectomy confirmation testing is critical, as nearly one out of every 238 vasectomies results in failure or recanalization, the formation of a new channel in the vas deferens through which sperm can move.
While the vasectomy failure rate is pretty low, you could still have some sperm in it to win it, which could result in an unwanted pregnancy. Your best bet is to keep tabs on your (hopefully) lowering sperm count while using birth control right after your vasectomy, just in case.
As they say, all good things come to those who wait (to have unprotected sex).