You thought you were done having kids, so that vasectomy seemed like a great idea. But now, you’re having second thoughts. Is it too late to become a dad again?
You probably think you’re out of luck, since vasectomies are considered a permanent form of birth control. But can you reverse a vasectomy?
First, a vasectomy refresher: In the surgical procedure, your doctor will seal or cut the tubes—called the vas deferens—that link your testicles to your urethra. This stops the sperm from getting into your semen. So you’ll still ejaculate as normal, but there just won’t be any sperm in there. That means no swimmers to fertilize her egg, and no baby. (Vasectomies won't protect you from STDS, though. You'd still need a condom for safe sex.)
It isn’t 100 percent guaranteed, though—just ask NFL player Antonio Cromartie, whose wife got pregnant for the second time after his vasectomy. Still, they’re considered the most dependable form of birth control, offering a 1 in 2,000 chance of impregnating a woman post-procedure and recovery.
You should consider a vasectomy a permanent decision when you’re considering getting one, but if you’re having second thoughts afterwards, there is a procedure called a vasectomy reversal that can restore your fertility, said Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., co-director at The PUR Clinic at Orlando Health, which specializes in urology and men’s health.
It’s not a shoe-in for success, either, though. The success rates for vasectomy reversals depend on a number of factors, including how long ago you had the vasectomy, and the condition of your tubes down there, he explained.
In most cases if you had the vasectomy within the last seven years, a vasectomy reversal is a simple process of putting the tubes back together through microsurgery, he said. With a simple vasectomy reversal, his clinic sees about a 90 percent success rate in getting live sperm in the ejaculate again.
But if there’s scarring, the vas deferens are too short to re-connect, or you’ve gotten the vasectomy longer than seven years ago, the process can be more complex. In that case, a connection may have to be made with even smaller tubes. Even with a more complex procedure, there’s still about a 50 to 60 percent success rate, Brahmbatt said.
“The biggest mistake we see is that people think they can go back to all activities in a couple days,” Brahmbhatt said. “But these sutures are finer than hair. We use a microscope to do the procedure, that’s how delicate it is. Any excessive straining and you can open it all up.”
Once that happens, you’d need to go back under the knife. Since most insurance doesn’t cover vasectomy reversals—which can run between $8,000 to $20,000—you’d be out of a chunk of change.
The good news is that once you’re over the recovery period, Brahmbhatt joked that he writes a prescription for “as much sex as possible for at least two weeks.” Daily ejaculation, whether with a partner or solo, helps to get sperm mobilized again, and speeds up the time to fertility.
With either type, recovery is the same—you take it very easy for a week to 10 days, including icing the area and using compression.
Six weeks after your procedure, you’ll check back in with your doctor for a semen analysis, to check to see if live sperm is present. You should try to “empty” your sperm bank at least 40 times before that first post-surgery checkup, Brahmbhatt said.
In general, it can take up to a year until your sperm are abundant enough to result in pregnancy, but it could be as little as a few months. Some of Brahmbhatt’s patients actually cancel the surgery follow-up because their partners get pregnant almost right away.
“Nothing is ever 100 percent, and that includes vasectomy reversals,” he said. “But I have an office wall full of baby pictures from men who thought they’d never be fathers again.”
This article first appeared on Men's Health.