How Young is Too Young for a Vasectomy?

Why are men as young as 18 trying to get vasectomies? They’re not even old enough to drink legally, at least in the U.S., yet they are already sure they don’t want children. What gives?

An article at sbs.com in Australia follows the case of Matthew, who underwent a vasectomy at age 21. He had been trying for three years to convince a doctor to perform the procedure. Wait until you’re older, he was told.

The Chicago Tribune offers a similar story of a tattoo artist who got his vasectomy at 27. The thought of getting a woman pregnant was “the scariest thing in the world.” He said he’s long known he doesn’t want to be a father, and he didn’t want to take any chances.

“[Between 2020 and 2021,] there’s been close to a 20 percent increase in the number of childless men under 30 requesting vasectomies . . . it’s getting to the point where once or twice a year we have a list where half the men getting vasectomies are childless,” reported Dr. Justin Low from Australia.

While most commonly, vasectomies are done on men who have had all the children they want, doctors are getting more and more requests from men in their 20s who are childless and want to stay that way.

In the U.S., as in Australia, any male age 18 or older can legally obtain a vasectomy, but doctors will try to talk them into waiting. They are reluctant to operate on people under 30 because of the high rate of reversal requests in this group. Men have just as much of a right to choose as women do, but no one can predict the future. They may change their minds or meet someone who wants to have children and discover that the vasectomy is a deal breaker.

Even for men who have already fathered children, the future could bring divorce and remarriage to a woman who is still waiting for her chance to be a mother (my situation and many of yours).

Five years after his vasectomy, Matthew has a woman in his life, and they want to have children. He is hoping to have his vasectomy reversed. There’s no guarantee it will work. The longer it has been, the worse the odds, 76 percent after three years, going down to 30 percent after 15 years.

Sperm is still available in the testes. In theory, it could be directly retrieved and used in artificial insemination, although that is a tricky and costly procedure.

But men shouldn’t count on being able to change their minds. “We want men to look at vasectomy as a permanent solution,” said Dr. Chris Gonzalez, a urologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

Why are such young men so anxious to be “snipped”? All the usual reasons we hear from partners who don’t want children: work, money, freedom, the effect on their relationship, fear, worry about passing on physical or mental problems, concern about the planet and overpopulation. Or they just don’t like kids. They don’t want any babies, and they don’t want to deal with birth control.

Men aren’t the only ones. Young women who are sure they don’t want children seek tubal ligation surgery to end the possibility of pregnancy. As with the young men, their doctors urge them to wait a while before taking this step which will affect their entire lives and the lives of their future partners.

Those of us who have lived a few more years look back and realize how little we knew and understood about life when we were in our teens and 20s.

It bothers me that people would want to be permanently sterilized at such a young age. Why does my midnight mind keep wandering to dogs and cats and the way we get them “fixed,” as if they were broken, to avoid being overrun with puppies and kittens? But with young people, it’s their bodies and they have a right to do what they want with them.

As someone who married a father of three who’d had a vasectomy in his 40s, unwittingly ending my chance at motherhood, I want to scream, “No! Wait. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

We have certainly heard from women here in that situation, including some who learned about the vasectomy after they were married. Oh, by the way . . . [see “What If the Man Has Had a Vasectomy?” and “He Forgot to Mention His Vasectomy”.]

But I’m an older woman and also Catholic, so I admit I’m biased. Readers, what do you think about this? Are you dealing with a vasectomy situation? Did you know early in your relationship? Men, if you have had a vasectomy, when and why did you do it? Any regrets? Do you think an 18-year-old or a 25-year-old is mature enough to make this decision?

A little more reading on the subject: https://www.socalurologyinstitute.com/blog/Vasectomy-Age-Requirements-Am-I-Too-Young.html

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Forgive my tardiness this week. Mix Holy Week church music, events I’m running for National Poetry Month, and a new weekly physical therapy appointment on Wednesdays, and the blog may well be delayed for the next few weeks, but it will come.

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This Sunday is Easter. For me, it’s about Jesus rising from the dead and the end of my Lenten cookie fast, but for parents, it seems to be all about bunnies, Easter baskets, and Easter egg hunts. Kid stuff. You may be roped into some of that this weekend. Try to find whatever fun you can out in it. Don’t drive yourself crazy comparing your life to that of friends and family with kids.

You can also excuse yourself and do your own thing. My plan is to go to church, then come home and bake cookies, walk and read in the sun if the weather cooperates, watch a movie if it rains, and make myself some enchiladas for dinner. Do what works for you.  

Happy Easter and Happy Spring to all of you.

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