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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Failed vasectomy reversal means no kids

Six to 10 percent of men decide to reverse their vasectomies. There are no guarantees a reversal will work. The longer it has been, the less likely it is to be successful. For Laura Curtis and her husband, it wasn’t.

Curtis, a musician from Ontario Canada, told her story on the April 22 UnRipe podcast for childless women. She was 22 and he was 36 when they were married. He had had a vasectomy, but she had always wanted children, so he had surgery to reverse the vasectomy. It failed, due to an excess of scar tissue. Although her own reproductive system was perfectly healthy, she was facing a life without the children she had always dreamed of having. They tried fertility treatments, with several embryo transfers. That didn’t work either.

All of this was hard on the marriage, and it even led Curtis to consider suicide. She went into therapy, went back to school for a music degree, and considered more IVF. Then she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Because she couldn’t take her MS medication while trying to become pregnant, they ended their efforts to have children. “We made choices that didn’t feel like choices,” she told host Jo Vraca.

Curtis is now a singer and music teacher. She found comfort in going back to school and studying the effects of sex hormones on the voice, something she had really felt during her fertility treatments. Classical singing is a whole body experience. When you are in pain or your ovaries are greatly enlarged, it’s difficult to support the notes, she said. You can read her master’s thesis, “The Effects of Infertility on Female Vocalist Identity” here. Now she’s working on a PhD.

Curtis teaches music and sings with several groups, including the Childless Voices Choir, founded by Helen Louise Jones in the UK. Jones also leads a weekly chanting circle online on Sundays. Visit https://www.ourhealingvoice.com to find out more about the benefits of singing, especially when you’re going through a hard physical or emotional time. Curtis says the music feeds her soul. Although she truly wanted to be a mother, she now calls herself “involuntarily childfree” because she is loving her life.

Listen to the UnRipe podcast here. https://www.unripecommunity.com.au/blog/21-infertility-after-failed-vasectomy-reversal-with-laura-curtis/

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One more thing:

I’m relatively new at the church I’m attending now. Our priest likes to dialogue during the homily. The other day, he was talking about parents and children. He said he didn’t have any children, so he needed our input. Then he turned to me and asked what it’s like being a parent. In front of God and everybody, I said, “I don’t have any children either.” Stone silence for a second, and then he stuttered around and said something about picking the one wrong person to ask. He moved on. But, that was awkward. And even though I didn’t have children, I wanted to try to answer his question. People assume every woman my age is a mother and grandmother. Surprise! I’m not.

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What if the man has had a vasectomy?

I keep receiving comments lately from women whose male partnerns have had vasectomies–surgery to prevent them from producing sperm. A vasectomy is intended to be permanent birth control. But people don’t always see it as permanent. The guy can just have surgery to reverse it. Right?

It’s not that simple, my friends. Here’s why.

1) If a man has had a vasectomy, at some point he was sure enough that he didn’t want any children–or any more–that he was willing to have surgery to make it permanent. That’s pretty darned sure. Maybe, as in my husband Fred’s situation, he had no idea that his first marriage would end and along would come a younger wife still wanting babies. In our case, we talked about having the surgery reversed, but Fred finally admitted he really didn’t want to start over with another baby. If I had had older kids, it would have been okay with him, but he found the whole baby and toddler thing exhausting and didn’t want to do it again when he was pushing 50. Your man may be younger and more interested in having children, but never forget that at some point, he was sure he didn’t want to get anyone pregnant.

2) Reversal doesn’t always work. The surgery to reverse the vasectomy is much more complicated than the original vasectomy surgery, and it’s not always successful. There may be blockages or the man may have developed antibodies to his own sperm. The longer it has been since the vasectomy, the worse the odds. If it has been less than three years, chances of getting pregnant are better than 50 percent, but after 10 years, only about 30 percent result in pregnancy.

3) It costs a lot of money, estimated $5,000-$15,000, and most insurance companies consider it an elective procedure which they don’t cover.

I hate to bring more grief to people who are already suffering over the possibility of not having children, but we need to face reality. When you hook up with a man who has had a vasectomy, he is infertile and he may or may not be willing or able to change that. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. People do have the surgery and make babies. Talk to your doctor if you’re thinking about it.

You can find more information about vasectomy reversals at these websites.

http://www.vasectomy.com/vasectomy-reversal/faq/vasectomy-reversal-success-rates-will-it-work

http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/vasectomy-reversal-vasovasostomy

https://www.vasectomy.com/vasectomy/faq/is-a-vasectomy-reversible
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