Can you tell if a man has had a vasectomy?

Scarring | Semen | Failure | Summary

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.

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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.

There are two different vasectomy techniques: 

  • Incisional (1 or 2 incisions) 
  • No-scalpel

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 ejaculate1Semen. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/semen. Published April 11, 2015., this change is not noticeable under casual circumstances.

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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.2Bradshaw A, Ballon-Landa E, Owusu R, Hsieh T-C. Poor Compliance With Postvasectomy Semen Testing: Analysis of Factors and Barriers. Urology. February 2020:146-151. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2019.10.026 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.

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.

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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.

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Summary

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.

References and further reading Vasectomy-Information.com has a strict sourcing policy. We rely on evidence-based medicine, peer-reviewed studies, reputable clinical journals, and medical associations. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and up-to-date by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Semen. Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/semen. Published April 11, 2015.
  2. Bradshaw A, Ballon-Landa E, Owusu R, Hsieh T-C. Poor Compliance With Postvasectomy Semen Testing: Analysis of Factors and Barriers. Urology. February 2020:146-151. doi:10.1016/j.urology.2019.10.026

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jennifer Trent, MD

Review date

May 22, 2021

Authored by

Vasectomy-Information.com editorial team

Last updated

June 17, 2020

Comments (19)

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  1. Would I be able to look at a sample under a regular microscope? This would tell if he had a vasectomy? What would be the magnification?

    Reply
  2. Ladies, instead of putting women down, how about empowering them! We have all been there and lived through the lies because we were so in love to believe it. Live life to the fullest. Do not be miserable. It’s not worth it, life too short, sweetheart!

    Reply
  3. I have been with this 51-year-old man for five years. At the beginning of our relationship, he wasn’t ready to settle down with me, so we were seeing other people.

    One night we were kicking back after not seeing each other for a week or more, and I had told him I thought I was pregnant. He replied with: “Not from me,” I said: “I know. ” I feel he got embarrassed and came back saying: “Because I’ve been fixed.” We had used condoms all the time in the beginning. Then he gradually stopped using them all together I’d say about two years into it. But he would pull out and made sure not to cum in me until about the last year and a half. He would cum in me once in a while but said he didn’t like to. I asked him why and he replied with I don’t know it’s just not right. I am now pregnant, and at first, he seemed ok with it. He took me out to eat. But I wouldn’t say much about it just that he couldn’t have kids but not right away. The more I bring it up, the more he distanced himself. One day he said the price it’s mine, and I’ll believe you. Saying how weird we were together five years but not pregnant till now.

    Now he doesn’t call me or nothing. He won’t even answer my calls or texts. Only with I’m a whore to get a life because all I do is make up stuff because I also tell him I know he’s with someone else. What do you think? He has lied about a lot of things A LOT in the past

    Reply
  4. Hi. My husband had a vasectomy about five years ago. The amount of sperm he produces after the operation is lower and has always been a lot less than before operation. But this month we both have noticed that it changed again and he’s started to produce more sperm again should we worry and get him tested again or not.

    Reply
  5. Yeah, I agree that should be the last worry on your list. Also, if you are in love with someone, and want to have a child with that person, then I strongly agree that your significant other needs to be all the way honest with you about something that serious. If you really love the person, then if he did have one done, it really shouldn’t matter. You will stay with him and love him just like before. He’ll get a dog, cat, or even a ferret. Love it together as if it was a child of your own. Animals need love too!

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  6. The no-scalpel vasectomy. How long before it is completely healed, leaving no scar behind, and how long is it before the scar is not noticeable unless you were specifically looking for it?

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  7. Look, in all honesty, debating whether or not your husband has had a vasectomy should be the last worry on your list! I can completely relate to your situation, being in love with one who simply does not love you back… but a man with a history of child neglection and a previous affair with a FRIEND of yours clearly has no respect for you whatsoever, and with the amount of respect you give yourself, why should he! You need to realize your worth and walk away from the relationship. It would be the most difficult, yet most rewarding relationship decision you could ever make, not only for you but for your children. Find a man who deserves you AND your boys’ time.

    Reply
  8. My husband told me that he had a vasectomy three years ago, but he keeps having me take pregnancy tests if/when I’m late. He’s never lied to me, and I believe he may have misunderstood or forgotten what he was told about the reversal process. He seems to think a vasectomy just wears off. I understand that for some men, this might actually happen, but it isn’t meant to, and if you want a reversal, you actually have to go to the doctor and have it reversed.

    So my question is, how do I find out if my husband really did have a vasectomy, and is there such a thing as a self-reversing vasectomy? Thanks.

    Reply
  9. Geez, I think if you have to worry about that many things, you should dump the guy. No one is worth the loss of your sanity. Consider this: If you are asking this many questions about your man, then you are probably willing to accept many excuses to cover for him also. I’m sorry this answer may come at the cost of your husband, but if you really examine what you have just asked, you will probably realize that you KNOW and have all of the answers you need.

    Reply
  10. If I have sex with my husband and save some of the semen injected in me, can I use that semen, for testing?

    He will not tell me. So I have no way of knowing if he did. I have a feeling that he is seeing somebody and I’m not able to get him to tell me. He did tell me that he had been with a friend of mine once. It’s been ten months since this first happened. He did ask me for a divorce and later changed his mind. He has lived here off and on. Lately, he has been here for about a month, but I have not pushed the issue either.

    I’m afraid to lose him, but I feel he has done nothing but lie and lie again about a lot of things. He is always broke and does not have time for us like he used to. His attitude has changed a lot, and he feels more confident about himself. I feel the woman that he is seeing has made him feel like a new man, and I can’t seem to get him to tell me about it. But I know that his semen is different, and I feel his sex is not like it used to be either. I do still enjoy having sex with him, but to me, it’s a whole different ballgame! We have two boys that are teenagers, and now when they really need him, he is not around, and he has never really been proud of them like I feel a father should be.

    Please tell me what signs to look for. I need some answers badly, and he isn’t helping any. What I wanted to know is, if we have sex, when he injects sperm in me, can I save that sperm to determine if he did have a vasectomy? I just want to clear my conscience about it. How can I save some of that sperm? Some times it is a lot and watery, also, it is clear. It used to have an odor also, and now it doesn’t. I use to get vaginal infections a lot, and since we have been together, I have not had an infection. Could that tell me something?

    He is 48, and I also notice that his testicles do not hang. They are right on him, and his whole area looks very clean. He shaves regularly, and his parts are really looking young. He is taking viagra because at one time he started having problems, he said it was my fault. He said he lost his manhood because his wife (me) did not give him enough sex. Could that make his sperm change? I have seen him take it. Also, if he has to take it for us, will he have to take it when he is in bed with someone else also? Sometimes I feel that I don’t turn him on, but it may be because he is still seeing that other woman. I have read that a lot of men go through that.

    Like I wrote, he blames me for losing him manhood, but I have read that happens to a lot of men. Especially that old. Maybe I do need a new man in my life anyway, but for my family, I would rather have him.

    Reply
    • OMG, I couldn’t finish reading that novel. It’s a Maury Povich show. What does a vasectomy have to do with that? She should be glad if he did as to not have kids with her friend.

      Reply
    • Man, are you serious? That book was long-winded has nothing to do with a vasectomy. I wasted my time reading it. Like really like the first comment said, lose that dirtbag you have to love yourself first you don’t want to fall apart over a man like that.

      Reply
    • This is the fault of the one who first stops noticing and 9 out of 10 times its wives who belittle or punish their husbands with no intimacy. It’s both your fault.

      Reply
    • A semen microscope or sperm microscope is used to identify and count sperm. These microscopes are used when breeding animals or for examining human fertility. You can view sperm at 400x magnification. You do NOT want a microscope that advertises anything above 1000x, it is just empty magnification and is unnecessary.

      In order to examine semen with a microscope, you will need depression slides, coverslips, and a biological microscope.

      Reply

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