Some men might be concerned that a vasectomy will leave a visible scar or alter the characteristics of their semen. And sometimes, when a woman begins seeing a man who claims to have had a vasectomy, she may wish to verify this by looking for a scar or other evidence of the procedure.
It’s natural to assume that locating an incision or detecting abnormalities in a man’s ejaculatory fluid can provide clues as to whether a man has had a vasectomy. In reality, finding physical proof of a vasectomy is extremely difficult. This article discusses the changes that a man experiences (or doesn’t experience) after a vasectomy.
Does a vasectomy leave a scar?
A vasectomy does indeed leave one or more scars, but they are often very small and can be nearly impossible to see once the recovery period is over and the incisions have fully healed.
Further complicating things is the fact that a man’s scrotal skin is wrinkly and often covered with hair. As the scar fades over time, it can easily blend into the natural bumps and creases of his anatomy.
Even under ideal examination conditions, it can be very difficult to locate a man’s vasectomy scar, which means spotting evidence of a vasectomy can be nearly impossible during normal couple interactions. A quick visit to our vasectomy pictures section (NSFW) will demonstrate how hard it can be to see a fully healed vasectomy scar.Suggested reading
This means that simply looking for a scar is not a reliable way to verify if a man has had a vasectomy.
The different kinds of vasectomy scarring
Many people don’t realize that doctors use several different methods to perform vasectomies. These varying techniques leave scars in different locations, and the scars can be more or less noticeable depending on the technique.
The two main vasectomy techniques are:
- Incisional (1 or 2 incisions)
Traditional vasectomies involve making two incisions along either side of the scrotum. These incisions are small, and their position will vary depending on the doctor performing the procedure. Of all the different vasectomy techniques, The scars caused by this type of operation are probably the easiest to spot, but over time the scars will fade and become less visible.
Some doctors perform a vasectomy with a single incision along the midline or “seam” of the scrotum, also known as the raphe. Since the scars left by this type of vasectomy fall on the scrotum’s central ridge, they are practically invisible once healed.
Another popular technique is known as the no-scalpel vasectomy. This operation is performed with a sharp pair of forceps that puncture the scrotal skin rather than slicing it open. This form of vasectomy leaves almost no visible scarring once healed.
Will there be a difference in the ejaculate after a vasectomy?
While the composition of a man’s ejaculate will change after a vasectomy, it is more or less impossible to notice the difference through sight, touch, taste, etc. The only change in a man’s semen after a vasectomy is the lack of sperm. Since sperm account for no more than 2% to 5% of the total volume of a man’s ejaculate1, this change is not noticeable under casual circumstances.Suggested reading
Semen analysis is the only way to tell
The only way to be 100% certain a man has had a successful vasectomy is by having a semen analysis performed by a laboratory. A lab-verified sperm count of zero means the man is not fertile and has definitely had a vasectomy. A non-zero result means one of two things:
- The man did not have a vasectomy.
- The man had a vasectomy, but it failed.
- The sperm count was checked too soon after the vasectomy.
A surprisingly large percentage of men (40% to 50%) never return for a post-vasectomy sperm count.2 Without the “all clear” from the doctor, it’s impossible to be sure that the operation was a success.
It takes about 3 months to be sperm-free. This is why you should use some form of contraception until the sperm count is zero.
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The risks of vasectomy failure
Although uncommon, it is possible for vasectomies to fail. They can fail for 3 reasons:
- Having unprotected sex too soon after vasectomy.
- Reconnection of the vas deferens.
- Abnormal anatomy.
If a man can produce evidence of a sperm count or if you trust that he has done the necessary follow-up testing, then this may be sufficient. However, it is still possible for a vasectomy to fail years after the operation, which is why a current sperm count is a good idea.
As mentioned previously, many men never go back for a post-vasectomy semen analysis. While the success rates of vasectomy are very high, there’s simply no way to be sure until the sperm count results are in.Suggested reading
Another issue is that vasectomies can naturally reverse themselves through a process known as recanalization. Recanalization allows sperm to travel between the cut ends of the vas deferens (sperm tubes), although the sperm count is often greatly reduced from pre-vasectomy levels.
Vasectomy failure is very rare, most failures will occur in the first year, but it can happen many years later as well. Unless a man has had a relatively recent test verifying his sperm count is zero, there is an outside chance he can still father a child.Suggested reading
Vasectomy is a minimally invasive procedure, and there will be little to no scarring after the surgery site is fully healed. Also, as the scrotum is a very forgiving area of the skin, it would be very difficult to notice scarring even when examined closely. The only reliable way to confirm if a man has had a vasectomy is a semen analysis.