NHS figures show vasectomies are down 63% in a decade

The number of men having vasectomies has fallen by two thirds in 10 years, NHS figures show.

Experts say more men are choosing to preserve their fertility to have children later in life, particularly if their marriage breaks down.

The procedure is also being rationed by some NHS trusts and GPs in certain areas have been ordered to cap the number of referrals.

Figures from NHS Digital show that just 10,880 vasectomies were performed in 2015/16, down from 29,344 in 2005/6.

The biggest drop occurred between 2005/6 and 2014/15, and since then the reduction has started to stabilise slightly.

The number of men having vasectomies has fallen by two thirds in 10 years (stock)


Vasectomy is usually carried out under local anesthetic and takes around 15 minutes.

The procedure involves severing, then sealing off, a tube called the vas deferens, which carries sperm from the testes to the penis.

This prevents sperm from reaching the seminal fluid (semen), which is ejaculated from the penis during sex.

There will be no sperm in the semen, therefore a woman’s egg cannot be fertilised.

The procedure has a 99.9 per cent success rate.

During a conventional vasectomy, the skin of the scrotum is numbed with local anesthetic.

The doctor makes two small cuts, around 1cm long, on each side of the scrotum.

The incisions allow the surgeon to access the vas deferens, or sperm-carrying tubes.

Each tube is cut and a small section removed.

The ends of the tubes are then closed, either by tying them or sealing them using a diathermy (an instrument that heats to a very high temperature).

Men will not feel any pain, although it may feel slightly uncomfortable.

The incisions are stitched, usually using dissolvable stitches, which will disappear naturally within about a week.

After a vasectomy, a man’s hormones remain normal and there is no noticeable difference in his ejaculate volume, since sperm make up only a tiny part of the semen.

As the sperm cannot come out after the vas deferens is cut, like other dead body cells, the sperm disintegrate and are reabsorbed by the body.

‘Relationships break down and circumstances change’ 

Vasectomies cost £400 a time and are deemed to be a safe and effective form of contraception.

But family planning experts say they are being increasingly shunned by men who view them as an ‘irreversible’ lifestyle choice.

Clare Murphy, from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, the country’s largest abortion provider, said many couples were waiting until their late 30s and 40s to have children.

‘This may well have implications for the numbers of men seeking vasectomies, as couples want to retain their fertility for longer.

‘But it’s also possible there’s greater awareness that relationships can break down and circumstances change, which may make some men more reluctant to seek a method that can be extremely difficult to reverse.

She also said some men may be finding it harder to ‘access’ the procedure as it was being rationed by cash-strapped health trusts.

‘This is not acceptable as vasectomy offers couples a way for a man to take the burden of contraception that his partner may have long shouldered.’

GPs told to cap referrals  

Some health trusts have ordered GPs to limit the number of patients referred for a vasectomy on the grounds that they are low priority.

They include Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group in Essex which told certain practices to only send in one man a year.

Natika Halil, chief executive of the sexual health charity Family Planning Association said: ‘Although there are 15 different contraceptive methods available to choose from, vasectomies are one of only two options currently available for men to use – the other of course being the external male condom.

‘Being able to choose the right contraceptive method for you is incredibly important, and given the lack of choices currently available for men, this makes access to vasectomies even more vital.

‘Some commissioners in England, in areas including Essex, are now no longer offering vasectomies on the NHS, which means men may have to pay up around £500 for a private procedure.

‘Unfortunately evidence shows that cuts to services, a fractured commissioning system, a lack of accountability, and a lack of training for healthcare professionals have all lead directly to a reduction in access to contraception. Recent cuts to public health budgets have been dramatic: £800 million over six years.’

What is a vasectomy? 

Vasectomies involve severing the tube which carries the sperm to the semen, to prevent them fertilising a woman’s egg.

But they aren’t effective straight away as the man will still have sperm in their semen for several months.

They are also difficult to reverse and only a handful of consultants can perform this procedure in the UK, and they aren’t usually available on the NHS.

The procedure stops sperm getting into the semen and did not become a widespread form of contraception until the 1950s.

It was first carried out a dog in 1823, as part of an experiment, and was not performed on a man until 76 years later.

In the early 1900s it was compulsory for rapists, murderers and anyone deemed an ‘idiot’ to have a vasectomy so they couldn’t reproduce.

Figures also show that the number of women being sterilised fell by 41 per cent over the same period, probably for the same reasons.

This is a surgical procedure to prevent eggs reaching the womb and being fertilised by sperm.

According to NHS Digital, there were 14,039 sterilisations in 2015/16, down from 23,685 in 2005/06.


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