The snip – a complete guide to getting a vasectomy

by Hatty Wilmoth · Sep 2, 2020

Reviewed Icon

Reviewed by Dr. Melanie Davis-Hall on Dec 29, 2020

How does a vasectomy work? Does it hurt? Does it affect your sex life? All your FAQs answered about getting a snip on the NHS.
Scissors on a green background

Whilst the thought of a vasectomy might make most men wince; this male sterilisation technique is a highly effective and relatively painless way of providing permanent contraception.

With very few side-effects and a surgery time that can be as quick as 15 minutes, getting the snip is an excellent long-term solution for couples looking to protect against pregnancy. 

✅ If you think you’ll find this blog interesting, make sure to check out our newsletter for more:

Sign up to our newsletter | The Lowdown

Your vasectomy questions:

Check out the contraception reviews | The Lowdown


1. How does the snip work?

A vasectomy is where the tubes (vas deferens) carrying the sperm from the man’s testicles to the penis are blocked or cut, (hence the slang term ‘getting the snip’) and then sealed to ensure that when a man ejaculates the semen has no sperm in it. There are two types of vasectomy procedures, the conventional vasectomy and the no-scalpel vasectomy.

The conventional vasectomy

The doctor will make two small cuts each side of your scrotum to reach the vas deferens. A small section of each tube is cut, and then closed, either by being tied or sealed with heat. The cuts will then have sutures which will dissolve in a few weeks.

The no-scalpel vasectomy

As the name suggests, this type of vasectomy doesn’t involve a scalpel. Instead the doctor will make a tiny puncture hole in the skin of your scrotum to be able to reach the tubes. The tubes are then closed in the same way as a conventional vasectomy.  This type of vasectomy is deemed to be less painful, and lead to less surgical complications. 

2. How long is a vasectomy procedure?

The vasectomy operation is very quick, and usually only takes around 15-30 minutes to perform. 

3. How do I get the snip?

A vasectomy is available free of charge on the NHS, but it can involve a fairly long waiting list of several months depending on where you live. Your GP or local contraception clinic can provide more information. For men wishing to have the procedure carried out quickly, there is the option to go private, and price will vary depending on the clinic. 

4. Can you get a vasectomy on the NHS?

Yes, you can get a vasectomy on the NHS. Your GP will be able to refer you for the procedure, but there may be a waiting list of several months. 

5. Does a vasectomy hurt?

As the vasectomy is a relatively quick procedure it only requires a local anaesthetic which will numb you from any pain during the procedure. You will likely experience some pain, mild discomfort and swelling after the procedure.   

6. For how long will I be in pain after getting the snip?

Most men experience pain and swelling and bruising of the scrotum for a couple of days post surgery. It is also common to have blood in your first few ejaculations but this is nothing to worry about. We would recommend organising someone to drive you home from the hospital post surgery to avoid any unnecessary strain or discomfort.  Urinating may feel slightly uncomfortable at the beginning but should ease off fairly quickly. 

7. Will I need to go back in for stitch removal post-surgery?

Stitches are not normally used. You may have some small sutures used to close the skin, but these are normally dissolvable. They may take 2-4 weeks to dissolve. 

8. How will I know if it’s worked?

About twelve weeks after the vasectomy procedure, your doctor will ask you to produce a sample of semen. This will then be tested for sperm. Once it has been confirmed that your sample is sperm free, then the vasectomy is classed as being successful. If the sample isn’t sperm free, the doctor may require you to provide another sample after this. It is very important to keep using alternative forms of contraception until the vasectomy is classed as successful.

9. How long after a vasectomy am I sterile?

It can take several months for semen to be sperm free after a vasectomy. Semen is typically tested by a doctor after three months and twelve ejactulations to check it’s sperm free. Some doctors may wish to test 6-12 weeks again after this to ensure sterility. 

10. How long before I can masturbate or have sex after getting the snip?

Doctors recommend that you wait up to one week before having sex to allow for any discomfort to have passed. The first few ejaculations may seem uncomfortable at first, but this will soon pass. It’s very important to use alternative birth control when having sex during the first few months because a vasectomy does not work immediately and there would still be a risk of pregnancy. 

11. When can I go back to work?

Usually you will be able to go back to work 1-2 days after your surgery if your work doesn’t involve heavy lifting or manual labour. 

12. How long after getting the snip can I play sports?

It’s important to not play sports for at least a week after a vasectomy, with some sports requiring even longer rest time to ensure proper healing. Light exercise such as walking can be resumed one week after surgery, but contact sports such as rugby or hockey should be kept away from for a month. Your doctor can advise you depending on which sports you play. 

13. Will getting the snip impact my erections?

One of the main worries for men after a vasectomy is that they may experience impotence and erectile dysfunction. However it is rare for this to be a side effect of having a vasectomy. 

14. Could being sterile affect me emotionally?

Having a vasectomy can be a big decision for many men, and one not to be taken lightly. Some men may find it a relief that they don’t need to worry about contraception any more or the risk of pregnancy. Others may worry that the option for more children has been taken away from them. We recommend speaking to your GP or a health clinician if you have any doubts or concerns about the vasectomy procedure that could affect you long term emotionally. 

15. Is the snip reversible?

Reversing a vasectomy is a more complicated procedure than the original operation and isn’t always guaranteed to work. A vasectomy is therefore considered a permanent form of contraception due to it not always being able to successfully be reversed. Therefore, before going through the process of getting the snip, it’s important to ensure that you are comfortable with the idea of not having more children. A vasectomy reversal is achieved by reconnecting the sperm carrying tubes which were blocked or cut in the original procedure.   

The success of your vasectomy reversal will often depend on how long ago your procedure was performed. 

It has been estimated that the success of a vasectomy reversal is

  • 75% if you have your vasectomy reversed within 3 years
  • up to 55% after 3 to 8 years
  • between 40% and 45% after 9 to 14 years
  • 30% after 15 to 19 years
  • less than 10% after 20 years

16. Can you get a vasectomy reversal on the NHS?

It is not usually possible to get a reversal on the NHS. If it is available then be prepared to face a long waiting list. Reversals are available privately, though can cost in the thousands to perform. 

17. At what age can you get a vasectomy? 

Legally speaking, if you are over the age of 18 then you are eligible for the procedure without legal consent.  Doctors tend to advise against having a vasectomy under the age of 30, in case you change your mind in the future or meet a partner who would like to have children.

18. Can having a vasectomy cause premature ejaculation?

There is no known correlation between premature ejaculation and a vasectomy.

19. Can I get my partner pregnant after a vasectomy?

According to the Family Planning Association, approximately 1 in 2000 male sterilisations fail.

Once it has been confirmed post-surgery that your semen is sperm free and the vasectomy was a success, there is almost a zero percent chance of getting your partner pregnant. If you have sex prior to your semen being classed as sperm-free then there is still a risk of pregnancy occurring. Therefore it’s important to use alternative contraception in the three months post-procedure.

20. Can my partner and I use IVF to have children after my vasectomy?

Yes, IVF is still an option for your partner to get pregnant if you have undergone a vasectomy.  This is a particularly good option for men who have had their vasectomy performed many years ago and their is a lower success rate for a reversal. In this instance doctors would need to extract sperm directly from the testes via a needle inserted into the scrotum.  

21. Can I still get or pass on an STI after having a vasectomy?

Yes, having a vasectomy won’t protect you against getting or passing on a sexually transmitted disease. Semen can still carry a sexually transmitted disease even if it doesn’t carry sperm, so it’s important to keep using condoms if there is a risk of getting or spreading an STI.

22. What are the side effects of getting a vasectomy? 

In most men side effects of a vasectomy will only be swelling and bruising of the testicles. In very rare cases more long term and complicated side effects may occur. This could include:

  • A collection of blood inside the scrotum (haematoma)
  • Hard lumps caused by sperm leaking from the tubes
  • Surgical site infection
  • Long term testicle pain
  • The vas deferens tube reconnect (but this is very rare)

23. What are the pros and cons of a vasectomy?

Advantages of a vasectomy

  • Vasectomies are 99% effective
  • Vasectomies won’t affect your hormones or sex drive
  • They are a long term solution to contraception

Disadvantages of a vasectomy

  • Vasectomies don’t protect against STIs
  • They are complicated to reverse if you change your mind about having children
  • They are not immediately effective, and may take 2-3 months to protect against pregnancy
  • You may experience long term testicle pain in some rare cases

24. Can I have the operation if I’m single?

Yes, you can certainly have the operation if you’re single. Any doctor performing the operation will want to ensure though that you have fully thought about the option of not having children in the future. 

25. How much does it cost to have a vasectomy?

If you have your vasectomy procedure on the NHS it will be free. If you perform the procedure privately the cost will vary depending at which clinic it is performed. In the case of going private, contact the clinic for more information. 

See our related articles, including the future of male contraception here.


Hatty is a freelance digital marketing consultant with over 10 years experience. You can view Hatty’s personal portfolio here.