How old should you be to get a vasectomy? Well, while 18 is the official age of legal consent, there are plenty of physicians who balk at performing the relatively quick office procedure on anyone who’s still in their 20s, especially if they don’t have any kids.
“Young men in their early 20s without children are usually advised against having vasectomy as it is common for young men to change their mind and evolve in their interest in having children as their relationship situation changes,” said Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger, a board certified urologist in New York City.
Just ask Karel Jennings, who told The Scientific Parent about his 15-year journey to get a vasectomy, starting when he was just 20 years old. “Not for lack of trying,” he said about his numerous attempts to get a vasectomy after deciding at a young age that he was not interested in having children. Ever.
“The decision to be child-free is not something I grew out of as I aged, if anything I became more steadfast in my decision to not have children,” said Jennings. “As a result, I had decided around age 20 to pursue sterilization. I wanted a vasectomy.”
But it would take him until he was 35 to actually get a doctor to agree to perform the procedure, which, ironically, about 500,000 men a year get in the United States.
Wait one second, youngster
Regardless of his commitment and the amount of research he put into making that decision, Jennings was told by doctors to wait, even when he was in his 30s and in a relationship with a like-minded partners. Doctors, he said, were still worried that he would regret his decision.
The procedure isn’t referred to as “sterilization” for nothing: during a vasectomy a doctor snips your vas deferens and in effect stops your sperm from entering the penis during ejaculation to go on their egg hunt. And it’s about 100 percent effective, as long as you make sure your semen has become sperm-free, which takes about 3 months (or around 20 ejaculations).
SpermCheck — an over the counter kit — is a super quick and easy way to perform your own sperm analysis, right in the comfort of your own home. Once you’re in the clear, you and your partner are good to go (and go)!
What doctors are afraid of
Although legally, any man over 18 in the U.S. who is mentally sound can get a vasectomy, doctors still get the last word and are under no legal obligation to perform the procedure if they don’t feel it’s in the best interest of their patient. What that means is that every doctor brings her own values to each case and where one doctor might refuse to perform a vasectomy on a 22-year-old, another would book the appointment without a second thought.
But there are definitely a number of factors that all doctors take into consideration when faced with a young man looking to get a vasectomy, including the patient’s marital status and whether or not he already has children.
Certainly, men in mid 20s who have a few children are less likely to regret vasectomy and it may be a reasonable contraceptive option,” said Shteynshlyuger.
What could go wrong?
Studies have shown that men who have vasectomies at a very young age are more likely to regret it and/or have a reversal later in their life. Here are some points to consider:
- One study found that men who have vasectomies in their twenties are 5 times as likely to have a reversal than older men
- 90% of vasectomy reversals occur because the man meets somebody who wants to have children
- Vasectomy reversals are not always successful
- The longer a man waits after his vasectomy to have a reversal, the lower the chances of pregnancy
- Vasectomy reversals are expensive and are not usually covered by insurance
Wait, what if it was a mistake?
Of course, just like bourbon and the sudden appeal of 6 p.m. dinner reservations, getting older does make some things more desirable than they were when you were young — like having a baby.
What are your options if at, say 37, you start to regret getting sterilized at 24?
- Reversal of fortune: Thanks to technological advances, undoing a vasectomy is becoming increasingly more effective. One 2013 study looked at 1,229 vasectomy reversal patients, average age 42, and found that 84 percent had moving sperm in their semen again afterward. If the vasectomy was less than 15 years old that rate was 93 percent; if it was more than 15 years old it was still 75 percent. One final fun fact: Only about 5% of men who have had a vasectomy will ever have it reversed in the first place
- Bank that sperm: Even though reversal procedures are improving each year, that still doesn’t guarantee you a baby if you decide to try to undo the vasectomy you got when you were much younger. One man, who told The Good Man Project about how he and his wife had a change of heart as they got older and wanted to start a family, decided to go the IVF route because he had scar tissue from his vasectomy that would have made a reversal impossible. Important lesson: always save for a rainy day.
- Consider adoption: While it’s really just another spin at the baby roulette wheel, adopting a baby is a viable option for many men who decide they want to be fathers but either can’t afford or aren’t candidates for IVF or reversing their vasectomy procedure.
It’s a tough call, deciding not to bring another life into this world, and many men know from a young age that they want a vasectomy to bring them peace of mind. Whether or not they’ll change their minds a decade or two down the line is about as clear as predicting whether or not they’ll still have all their hair.
But you have to admire this unnamed 19 year old who MEL Magazine earlier this year, “Maybe you still think I’m short-sighted or impulsive, but honestly, if you’re a legal adult, you can buy a house, you pay taxes, and most importantly, you have the choice to start a family. Someone my age should also be able to decide if that isn’t something for them.”