Vasectomies are on the rise. They’re seen as an easier form of birth control, especially for married couples who are “done” having children, but lately, they’re being pushed as a way to balance abortion rights.
Unfortunately, the information out there isn’t as honest as it should be about the recovery or full effects of this permanent decision. I know, my ex-husband had a vasectomy, and two other family members – that I know of – had the procedure done and then got reversals. The physical and mental issues I witnessed led me to further research this “easy” procedure, and the results were far more complicated than the medical industry claims.
Family Planning and Permanent Decisions
How couples perceive family planning changes as we age. In my teens and early 20s, I had been taught that having children was cruel and bad for the planet. Despite loving children and having plenty of experience with them, I was convinced I should never have any.
Thankfully, most doctors won’t sterilize young women or men unless it’s for serious health-related issues or they already have children. I went on to have two beautiful daughters, and it wasn’t until they were born that I realized that the idea of never having children would never have suited me.
But the indoctrination still clung. I committed to never having more than my two kids because my public school education drilled it into me that people who do so are selfish and wrong. So when my husband offered to get a vasectomy, I honestly thought it was a good idea. It was gaining popularity and seemed like a viable option.
How couples perceive family planning changes as we age.
What I didn’t realize was that the problems that were already present in our union would be magnified by such a drastic physical change. I also didn’t understand just how much even the prospect of having more children can mean for a marriage – whether it’s fulfilled or not.
No one plans for divorce or changing their mind, but we do. Once a man makes that permanent decision to cut off his life-giving resource to a woman that permanence lingers.
Sex Drive Issues, Lower Attraction Levels, and Serious Long-Term Side Effects
Experts say that sex drives and attraction don’t change after the procedure, but the truth is that very little scientific research has been done to confirm this. A simple search of online message boards reveals complaints from men admitting that their orgasms change after the procedure. And I can attest that it feels different from the other end.
My ex-husband (then-husband) and I bought into the hype surrounding vasectomies. We also fell for the selling points that it doesn’t hurt that bad and has a recovery period of 72 hours. After his procedure, my husband (now ex) came home in excruciating pain, even with painkillers, and had to take a week off work.
The soreness doesn’t just magically go away in a few days. A vasectomy is a serious procedure and should be treated like it. At first, I wondered if he was just sensitive, but then more family members and friends opted to have a vasectomy, and our phones were ringing day and night. Everyone was concerned about the pain and how it lasted longer than the doctors said it would.
I’m not a medical professional, but this series of events definitely set off an instinctual alarm. Then, more concerns were raised once my husband and I were ready to try having sex again.
Scientifically speaking, the volume of a man’s semen decreases by 2-5% after a vasectomy. Doctors swear it isn’t enough for either a man or a woman to notice, but after our first time, post-procedure, the big bang that comes at the end was more like a light cough. It was barely existent. I figured his body would need time to adjust and didn’t want to make him feel bad, so I didn’t address it.
Anecdotal evidence claims orgasms change for the worse after a vasectomy.
Our sex life did get better, but it never reached its previous power. My satisfaction waned, and to make up for that, I sought more intimacy. It was like craving chocolate all day and being handed butterscotch. It wasn’t bad, but definitely not fulfilling.
Because our relationship already had issues, the loss of that physical connection made me less attracted to him, and I often fantasized about having more babies. The consequences of his vasectomy were biological, mental, spiritual – everything.
There haven’t been many studies done in the U.S. to see if divorce and vasectomies are related, the most recent material readily available is from 1979. But there are plenty of articles about vasectomies, divorce, dating, and vasectomy regret.
I doubt that the after-effects of getting a vasectomy can singularly destroy a marriage, but it will not help couples who are already experiencing distance issues, conflicts, or other serious problems that may require counseling. Especially if the man involved experiences one of the more serious side-effects, like chronic scrotal pain, which may lead to resentment, loss of sexual desire, and a host of other psychological issues.
The Link Between Vasectomies and Eugenics
Vasectomies were studied and gained popularity throughout the 1900s, and it was driven as a means to weed out the unwanted. In 1899, it was presented as a solution to reduce crime. In 1907, the state of Indiana introduced a bill that gave the government the power to sterilize criminals. It was meant to combat rape, but also allowed the sterilization of inmates termed “idiot” or “imbecile” as well.
By 1909, vasectomies were being considered as a way to “prevent procreation in defectives.” This is where the fine line between inherent rights and government-imposed law started to make people question the concept of medical rights.
Between 1909 and 1924, over 6,000 people were forcibly sterilized due to these efforts, half of which resided in California. The laws were reformed in 1927, but that was also the year that Germany’s Institute for Anthropology, Human Genetics and Eugenics was established.
The next year, 1928, Switzerland joined the party and created Europe’s first law relating to eugenics. From there, Germany took the wheel and continued testing and exploring this concept.
Vasectomies were introduced as a way to prevent procreation in “defectives” and criminals.
When Hitler rose to power in the following years, he recruited doctors and scientists to carry out torturous experiments on the Jewish population as well as on political dissidents. Regardless of whether or not the original sterilization of men was meant to be performed with good intentions, the events that led up to these horrific acts paved the way for countless human rights violations and war crimes that were committed during WWII. So when current governments and organizations promote sterilization as a way to balance abortion rights, prevent climate change, poverty, or other issues, couples and individuals need to remember that the choice should always remain solely with them.
Giving up our parental prospects to “save the world” may sound noble at first, but as I realized when I began questioning my ideals in favor of my maternal rights: if everyone who cares about the planet stops having kids, then who will be in charge of the future?
Children are innovators and motivators. Many people attribute their love of their families as the driving force behind their goodwill, myself included. Knowing the history of vasectomies and that birth rates have hit historic lows contradicts the “need” for mass sterilization.
Reverse Vasectomies and Why Men Change Their Minds
There has been very little research done to measure vasectomy regret. The most recent study was conducted in the early ‘90s and questioned men who received the procedure in the 1980s. Vasectomies were not common at the time, nor were they being promoted as if they were normal for men’s health. As the rates have drastically gone up, the responses are more likely to vary, but until the scientific community studies this, we have very little to go on.
Thankfully, if a man does have a vasectomy and changes his mind, it can be reversed. Whether it’s due to divorce or new family goals, there is a procedure that reconnects the pathways to fertility, but this option has varying success rates. Success rates range from 30-90% depending on how long after a vasectomy the reversal is carried out, age, partner, surgeon, and whether fertility issues existed before the surgery. Those are broad numbers to rely on.
I have two family members who openly discussed their reversals with me. The first was older and trying to get pregnant with a partner who had experienced fertility issues beforehand. He already had two teenage children when deciding to try with his new wife after a divorce and remarriage. Because of her fertility issues, even after the reversal, the stress became too much, and they eventually gave up.
Vasectomy reversal success rates range from 30-90%.
The second is a happier story. Like so many men who consider a vasectomy, he had been taught that having too many children was bad and volunteered to have the procedure just after the birth of his first child. His wife was on board with this plan. But as time went on they grew concerned about the psychological effects that being an only child was having on their daughter. No matter how much they socialized her, she was obviously more self-centered than her friends (who all had siblings), and she seemed unable to communicate as easily.
Both he and his wife also admitted that they also didn’t realize how much they would long for another child. They sought out the best specialist in their area, budgeted and planned for the costly procedure, and traveled to have it done. They now have another child and the eldest has adjusted into a loving big sister who dotes on her baby.
These are just a couple of anecdotal cases, but they offer a glimpse into the reasons why men change their minds. Now, as with any medical operation, reverse vasectomies do host their own side effects. The usual bruising and swelling should eventually heal, but there is an increased risk for scrotal bleeding, chronic pain, and infection. So this is not a simple procedure either and should – like all permanent medical procedures – be approached with caution.
Couples need to take everything into consideration when looking into vasectomies as a form of birth control. The procedure may seem like a one-size-fits-all solution, but it can change a man’s body, your relationship, and your outlook for the future as time goes by. It’s not a simple procedure, it’s sterilization.
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