Fact Check: Can a Vasectomy Reverse Itself?

Social media users have questioned the permanence of vasectomies, a form of male birth control that prevents pregnancy by eliminating the presence of sperm in ejaculate.

The Claim

Numerous social media posts on Twitter have claimed that vasectomies can reverse themselves, in some cases leading to pregnancies even in couples where the male has had the procedure.

Claims of a similar nature have been made by various users, with some posts going back years. One user asked in 2019: "What! [A] vasectomy can reverse itself! Is that really true?"

In June this year, a user claimed one of their friends got pregnant and had a baby despite her husband having had a vasectomy a few years prior. The post gained hundreds of likes.

On Sunday, September 4, a user, responding to a news story about a who woman reportedly got pregnant despite her husband having had the procedure, claimed: "Vasectomy can reverse itself if not done properly."

The Facts

Doctors perform conventional vasectomies by surgically disconnecting the vas deferens, the tube that allows sperm to leave the testicles, by removing a small section and closing the ends where this once was.

The U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) states the procedure is "considered permanent," however it notes in rare circumstances the tubes can reconnect.

In April 2020, a case report published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports outlined how a healthy 37-year-old male visited a clinic because his wife had become pregnant despite his vasectomy procedure seven years prior.

Shortly after the vasectomy, the man's semen was analyzed and came up negative. There were no sperm cells present in a sample of semen he provided, confirming that the procedure had been successful.

However, doctors re-analyzed the man's semen after he presented himself at the clinic seven years later, and they confirmed that a total of 0.5 million sperm cells were present per milliliter of semen provided, to a total of 2.5 million sperm cells.

The report concluded that the case demonstrates the possibility of what is known as recanalization—a medical term referring to the re-joining of an interrupted bodily tube—and that "conception is still possible" afterwards.

In the case of a vasectomy, recanalization means that the vas deferens heals and re-connects after having been surgically cut in the procedure, allowing sperm cells to once again travel from the testicles.

The case report states that recanalization can occur either shortly after the procedure or even years later. It states that late recanalization may occur in one in every 2,000 cases and that "vasectomy, although mostly successful, still has a degree of failure."

According to MedicalNewsToday, most cases of recanalization happen within 12 weeks of the procedure. If it happens years later, it may go undetected until someone gets pregnant.

The Ruling

Fact Check - True

FACT CHECK BY NEWSWEEK

True.

Vasectomies can sometimes reverse themselves either shortly after a man's vasectomy procedure or even years later.

Though rare, late recanalization is possible. In some instances, the vas deferens can heal and allow sperm cells to travel from the testicles.

Doctor with sperm cell
A stock photo shows a doctor holding a model of a sperm cell. A vasectomy prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from entering the semen. Shidlovski/Getty