Vasectomy Reversal May Not Restore Fertility
More than 500,000 men opt to undergo a vasectomy each year in the United States, probably because it's considered the most effective form of birth control, other than abstaining from sex altogether, of course.
Still, some men end up changing their minds. In fact, the Cleveland Clinic reports that an estimated 6 to 10 percent of men seek a vasectomy reversal in the months or years following the original procedure, with varying success when it comes to conceiving afterward.
Understanding the success rates
Men seek a vasectomy reversal for a variety of reasons, though the decision is sometimes brought on by a new relationship or a desire to have more children with their partner after all. Vasectomy reversals are often successful, however, there are cases in which a man remains unable to conceive after the procedure. Pregnancy rates following a vasectomy reversal range from 30 to more than 90 percent, the Mayo Clinic reports.
This rate varies widely for many reasons. Sometimes the man or their partner have simply become less fertile with age. Other times, fertility problems may have existed even before the vasectomy. A man also may find it difficult to conceive after a vasectomy reversal due to poor sperm health or a failed reversal surgery—sometimes this can be remedied by another reversal procedure.
Timing is everything. About 95 percent of men are able to successfully conceive a child in cases when the original vasectomy was done within the past decade, according to the Cleveland Clinic. That rate begins to fall when the vasectomy was done 15 years or more before trying to conceive again.
Getting a reversal
To better understand how a vasectomy reversal works, it helps to know what the original procedure entails.
A vasectomy is a minor procedure in which a surgeon cuts the vasa deferentia, the two tubes that are responsible for carrying sperm to the ejaculatory ducts, where they mix with seminal fluid. While the testicles continue to produce sperm after a vasectomy, the procedure blocks the sperm from traveling to the urethra, and they die and get reabsorbed into the body. It's also worth noting that vasectomies don't affect a man's ability to orgasm—after the procedure he is still able to ejaculate semen, just minus the sperm.
Gretchen Rossi, 'Real Housewives of Orange County' alum, discusses her partner's decision to have a vasectomy reversal, the mechanics of his procedure and his limited viability—even post-recovery. Watch the full interview here.
To reverse the effects of a vasectomy, a surgery known formally as a vasovasostomy must be performed. During this procedure, the surgeon will reconnect the severed ends of each vas deferens. Some cases, however, prove to be a bit more complicated: the cut end of the vas deferens must be attached directly to the epididymis, which is the tube connected to the testicles that serves as a home for sperm before ejaculation. This is also known as an epididymovasostomy and should be performed by an experienced specialist.
Though it's rare, there are times when vasectomy reversals are unsuccessful. Some men opt to undergo a second reversal attempt. If the thought of getting yet another snip is a bit too much, you can also try conception through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Your sperm is aspirated directly from your testicles and used to fertilize your partner's eggs in a laboratory. Successful fertilization of the eggs creates embryos that can be implanted in the woman's uterus.
Considering your options
While there's no guarantee that a vasectomy reversal will help you successfully conceive, you can find comfort in the fact that success rates can be high. The key is to consider your personal circumstances: How long has it been since you had a vasectomy? How old are you and your partner? Did you have fertility issues before the procedure? The answers to these questions will likely have an impact on your conception efforts after the reversal.
If you're considering a vasectomy reversal, talk to your doctor about the potential outcomes. Consider all your options—reversal, IVF, adoption or some other means of growing your family—before making a decision.