Can vasectomies cause erectile dysfunction?
Dr. Aysha Butt is the Medical Director of FROM MARS, and is a GP Partner at Woodcote NHS Medical Practice.
Thinking of getting the snip? Big decision! Around 500,000 men in the US opt for a vasectomy each year and there are plenty of factors you’ll need to consider before going under the knife. But is your ability to get and stay hard one of them?
There’s a lot of misinformation about vasectomies and erectile dysfunction. If you’re thinking about having a vasectomy, it can be hard to know what to believe and who to trust. Can they really stop you from getting erections, or is it just a myth?
What is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy is an operation where a man’s vas deferens (the tubes that connect the testicles to the tube that runs through the penis) are cut and sealed. This stops men from being able to ejaculate sperm when they orgasm. It’s regarded as the most effective form of permanent birth control for men.
Vasectomies are a common and quick procedure, they often take less than 30 minutes to carry out, and they’re usually done under local anesthetic.
Can having a vasectomy cause erectile dysfunction?
Let’s get straight to it. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when a man can’t get or keep an erection that’s hard enough for sex. You may have been told or read online, that a vasectomy can cause ED, but the truth is, there’s no physical reason why it would.
To get an erection, you need the following:
- a circulatory system that can pump enough blood to your penis to make it hard
- a nervous system that can send the appropriate signals from your brain to your penis
- the right levels of the right hormones, like testosterone
- to be psychologically in the right frame of mind
Having your vas deferens cut won’t interfere with your circulatory system, nervous system, or hormones. Like any operation, vasectomies can have side effects though these tend to be uncommon and minor, like short term bruising, pain, and bleeding. ED is not considered a side effect.
You might have heard or read that vasectomies can cause ED because they interfere with your testosterone levels.
Testosterone is mostly made in your testicles and is vital for erections. So, if you have a vasectomy, will that cut off your body’s supply of testosterone? To put it simply, no. If you have your vas deferens cut, your testicles are still connected to your blood supply, and they’ll continue to secrete testosterone as they did before the vasectomy.
To repeat, there’s no physical reason why having a vasectomy should make it harder for you to get or keep an erection.
But what about the psychological side?
Psychological erectile dysfunction after having a vasectomy
We said to get an erection you also need to be in the right frame of mind, and here’s where a vasectomy could possibly interfere with your erections, although this happens rarely.
Some men can have an emotional or psychological reaction to the operation that could make ED more likely. It may be due to the idea of becoming permanently infertile, maybe prompting feelings of being less masculine, or feelings of depression, and these could affect a man’s ability to get or keep an erection.
However, research has shown this is a relatively rare reaction, that it’s usually related to misunderstandings about what a vasectomy is and its effects on a man. It’s more likely to happen when there are pre-existing problems in a couple’s relationship.
So, having a vasectomy could disrupt you mentally enough to interfere with your ability to get and keep an erection. But it’s unlikely. And if you understand that a vasectomy won’t affect your sex life or your masculinity, and if you’re in a supportive relationship, chances are you’ll be fine.
Can a vasectomy lower testosterone?
No, a vasectomy won’t lower your testosterone levels. Your testicles produce most of your testosterone, so some people think having a vasectomy will cut this supply of testosterone off from the rest of your body. This isn’t true though, as your testicles will still be connected to your blood supply and they’ll still produce as much testosterone as they did before the operation.
Will a vasectomy affect your sex drive?
A vasectomy shouldn’t affect your sex drive, as it doesn’t affect your ability to produce testosterone. The only way a vasectomy could affect your desire for sex is if you have a psychological reaction to it which affects your desire for sex, like depression, but this is rare.
Can you ejaculate after a vasectomy?
Yes. You’ll still ejaculate, and you won’t see a change in the amount, or the color and the consistency of your ejaculations.
When you ejaculate, you produce something called semen, a mix of sperm, enzymes, sugars, vitamins and minerals, and other biology stuff. Proportionately, sperm is only a small ingredient of semen. Most of the other ingredients of semen aren’t produced in the testicles. They’re made in other glands and organs, like your prostate, which is still connected to your penis after a vasectomy. So, there won’t be much of a change to what you ejaculate.
What color is sperm after a vasectomy?
You won’t ejaculate sperm after you’ve had a vasectomy, but you will still ejaculate semen, and this will look the same as it did before you had your vasectomy. There may be a little blood in your ejaculate a week or two after the operation, but this shouldn’t last for long.
How long after a vasectomy can you have sex?
This is up to you. You can have sex whenever you feel comfortable, depending on whether you experience any pain or not. But it’s often recommended to wait for one week to give your body some time to heal.
What if I have erectile dysfunction after a vasectomy?
As we’ve said, a vasectomy shouldn’t affect your physical ability to get an erection. If you do experience ED after a vasectomy, it could be a psychological reaction to the operation, or it could be caused by something else entirely.
You need to talk to a doctor to get to the bottom of what’s causing your ED, as it can also be an early warning sign that you’re developing a serious medical condition, like diabetes or heart disease. You need to understand if your health is at risk.
The treatment that will work best for you will depend on what’s causing your ED. If it’s psychological, then your doctor will be able to refer you to a mental health professional who can help.
If your ED is caused by a physical problem, then ED medications like Viagra, also called sildenafil, and others like tadalafil or vardenafil, are effective for many men. They may even help with psychological ED, as they can take the stress out of getting and keeping an erection.