Vasectomy Failure

Definition - What does Vasectomy Failure mean?

Vasectomy failure occurs when an attempt to induce permanent, male-based birth control does not work, and a man remains capable of contributing to a pregnancy. A vasectomy is an elective surgical procedure that prevents sperm from exiting the body. Men or couples who do not wish to conceive or have finished having children most often opt for this type of birth control. Therefore, vasectomy failure makes them vulnerable to the possibility of pregnancy. However, vasectomy failure is rare; less then 2% of women become pregnant in the year following their partner’s procedure.

FertilitySmarts explains Vasectomy Failure

Initially, sperm is produced in the testes. It matures in the epididymis, a coiled tube at the base of the testicles, before traveling through the vas deferens, a muscular tube that propels the sperm forward. The sperm then mixes with seminal fluid and a milky substance produced by the prostate, forming semen. The semen flows through the urethra, where it is released during orgasm.

During a vasectomy, the vas deferens is severed. A surgeon makes a small incision in the testicles, cuts the vas deferens, and ties the two ends off. This procedure prevents the sperm from progressing past the vas deferens. Therefore, while a man still ejaculates semen, it no longer contains any sperm.

While vasectomies are typically very effective, there are several reasons why one might fail:

  • Unprotected sex immediately following the procedure. For up to three months, sperm may still exist in the half of the vas deferens connected to the remainder of the system. Those sperm would still be ejaculated during orgasm, and capable of fertilizing an egg, leading to pregnancy.
  • Recanalization failure. This occurs when the cut made in the vas deferens does not prevent sperm from exiting. Sperm, equipped to forcefully navigate forward, reach the site of the recent incision and penetrate the fragile scar tissue. Typically, this type of failure occurs in the early period after the procedure, before the scar tissue has full formed. In other cases of recanalization failure, the sperm leak out of the testes end of the vas deferens and create another channel into the system.
  • Surgical error. As with any medical procedure, there is a chance of error. This can occur when a surgeon identifies the wrong tubes, improperly ties the ends, or severs the wrong component.
In order to ensure a vasectomy is successful, semen is tested for the presence of sperm two to three months following the procedure. Until sterility has been confirmed, there is still potential to conceive. If vasectomy failure does occur, the procedure can be performed again.
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