In the simplest sense, vasectomy reversal is a surgical procedure that reconnects the vas deferens tubes that were cut during the vasectomy, returning semen to a man’s sperm and making it possible for him once again to impregnate a woman.
Success rates vary due to several key factors, such as how fertile the man was prior to his vasectomy, the age of the woman and the technical expertise of the surgeon who performs the procedure.
Couple considering vasectomy reversal as a way to have more children should before making a final decision ask themselves some important questions:
1. HOW FERTILE WAS THE MALE PARTNER BEFORE HIS VASECTOMY?
A man who had difficulty conceiving before he had his vasectomy is likely to have the same issues after his vasectomy is reversed. Said differently, a vasectomy reversal in itself will not increase male fertility—it will only restore the level of fertility that existed prior to his vasectomy.
This doesn’t mean of course that conception for such vasectomy reversal candidates is impossible. On the contrary, men with low sperm counts can still conceive. In addition, there are ways to improve male fertility and sperm count, things like taking D-aspartic acid (D-AA) supplements. If fertility is an issue, you should consult with your doctor before deciding on a vasectomy reversal.
2. HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE THE VASECTOMY?
The less time that’s elapsed since your vasectomy, the more likely a vasectomy reversal will be successful. Several studies have concluded that elapsed time is a significant factor if vasectomy reversal success. Those same studies have found that after approximately 15 years, success rates decline sharply.
Again, this does not mean even if it’s been more than 15 years since your vasectomy that your surgery will be unsuccessful. Surgical techniques are continually improving, increasing the likelihood of success. Still, it’s important to consult with your physician about this and other issues before committing to your surgery.
3. HAVE YOU HAD OTHER SURGERIES?
You need to ensure your surgeon is aware of any other surgeries you’ve had in your groin area. Surgeries such as those to correct hernias can reduce vasectomy reversal success rates, this because they can caused blockages in the vas deferens (these are the tubes which move sperm from the testicles to the urethra). Having had such surgeries does not mean that your reversal surgery will be unsuccessful, but because they constitute one factor in overall success rate, it’s important to discuss those surgeries with your doctor.
4. WHAT AGE IS THE WOMAN?
A woman’s ability to conceive a child drops precipitously after the age of 35. Since it typically takes at least 6 months after reversal surgery to detect the extent to which sperm parameters have improved, a couple in which the woman is approaching this age needs to carefully weigh the benefits and risks of vasectomy reversal surgery.
5. DOES THE MAN HAVE ANTISPERM ANTIBODIES?
Approximately 1 in 3 men who have vasectomy surgery develop antisperm antibodies. These impede their ability to conceive a child. If the level of such antibodies is high, your doctor might warn you that the likelihood of success is more limited.
The decision to have a vasectomy reversed is never an easy one. Although recent surgical advances have made the procedure both safer and more effective, success is never guaranteed. In addition, there are risks that come with the procedure. For example, it can lead to scrotal bleeding and swelling, infections and chronic pain. Although the risk of these complications is relatively small, you should nevertheless include them as you consider the vasectomy reversal.
The key takeaway is that vasectomy reversal, although increasingly safe and successful in restoring male fertility, is not a decision you should make lightly. For best results, it’s critically important that couples considering this procedure share all relevant information with their doctor and listen thoughtfully to his counsel.