According to a 2015 report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 1 in 10 men in the United States get a vasectomy each year. Why? The reasons vary. Inevitably, some men who get a vasectomy as a form of pregnancy prevention want to have children later in life. Part of the appeal of a vasectomy is that it’s a highly effective form of birth control — only 15 to 20 out of every 10 thousand couples get pregnant when the male partner has had a vasectomy. Another part of the allure? Vasectomies are reversible.Whether your partner had a vasectomy before you met or you decided together that a vasectomy was the best form of birth control and later changed your mind about having kids, it can be a relief to know that pregnancy is still possible. All he needs to do is have a vasectomy reversal.Even knowing that it is possible to get pregnant after a vasectomy reversal, you probably have a lot of questions. Here’s everything you and your partner need to know.
How does a vasectomy reversal work?
There are two methods of vasectomy reversal: a vasovasostomy or a vasoepididymostomy. A vasovasostomy is far more common. During this type of vasectomy reversal, his doctor will sew the vas deferens from the penis to the testes back together. Less common (and far more difficult) is the vasoepididymostomy — his doctor will typically only recommend it if he doesn’t think a vasovasostomy will work. During this, his doctor will attach the vas deferens to the small organ at the back of each testicle that holds sperm.
Both types of vasectomy reversals are performed in a hospital or clinic under general anesthesia (he won’t feel a thing!) and take between 2 and 4 hours. Recovery time is about 2 weeks, depending on your partner’s overall health.
How much does a vasectomy reversal cost?
In general, many fertility treatments are cost prohibitive. For women, there are more affordable options but men who’ve had a vasectomy and want it reserved will have to shell out between $2 thousand and $12 thousand. Of course, the cost of a vasectomy reversal will depend on the hospital, doctor, and any complications that happen during surgery.
Unfortunately, vasectomy reversals are not usually covered by insurance. If your partner decides to get a vasectomy reversal, be sure to ask about any discounts a doctor may provide if they know you’re paying out-of-pocket.
Even with such a high price tag, vasectomy reversals are often more cost-effective than alternatives like freezing his sperm and going through rounds of IVF.
How long does it take to get pregnant after a vasectomy reversal?
Even without the complications of a vasectomy and/or vasectomy reversal, it can take couples without underlying fertility issues between 3 and 6 months to get pregnant. If female of male fertility issues are present, getting pregnant can take a lot longer. The general rule of thumb is that couples under 35 who’ve been trying to conceive for 1 year should consult a fertility specialist. For couples over 35 or with fertility-related health issues, this falls to 6 months.
When a vasectomy reversal is involved, these numbers become skewed. Even when a vasectomy reversal is successful, testing must be done in order to determine whether ejaculated semen contains sperm. If it does, his doctor will want to make sure the sperm count and quality are both high enough to achieve pregnancy. Typically, it takes males 90 days to replenish their sperm. For most men, a sperm analysis will show good sperm quality within 2 of these cycles. Some men may be able to get their partners pregnant within 3 to 4 months but it’s usually about 6 months before this is likely.
According to the American Urological Association, the rate of pregnancy after vasectomy reversal falls between 35 and 75% — that’s a broad range. They also report that men who have a reversal within 3 years of the original vasectomy have the highest success rates, while the success rate drops to 30% for men who wait 10 or more years. Remember, there’s no guarantee that a vasectomy reversal will allow you to become pregnant. There are a lot of variables and it’s often a “wait and see” situation.
Improving sperm count, quality, and motility after a vasectomy reversal
Whether your partner has had a vasectomy or not, he may want to take steps to increase the count, quality, and motility of his sperm. If he has had a vasectomy and then a reversal, he’ll want to rest up and allow his body time to heal properly. In addition, here are some tips for improving sperm count, quality, and motility:
- Stop smoking
- Avoid or limit alcohol consumption
- Eat a nutrient rich diet
- Avoid hot tubs
- Exercise regularly
- Lose weight
- Get enough sleep
What if a vasectomy reversal doesn’t work?
If you and your partner want to get pregnant after a vasectomy, a reversal is a great first step. Not only is it more cost effective than other types of fertility treatments, it’s usually effective if there are no other fertility concerns. That being said, not all vasectomy reversals result in a viable pregnancy. If, after a year of trying post-reversal, you’re still not pregnant, it may be time to speak with a specialist about other options. Thanks to modern advancements in reproductive technology, you do have options. You can talk to your doctor about in vitro fertilization (IVF) using sperm surgically removed from your partner or, if that’s not an option, donor sperm. This is likely the most effective option if a vasectomy reversal doesn’t work.