A rising number of men seek information and then choose to have a vasectomy. The increasing interest and volume of patients having the procedure can be attributed to various issues, but perhaps one reason stands out above the others. It appears more and more men are ready to take control of their reproductive health. “A vasectomy is an incredibly effective and rather easy form of contraception,” according to Jim Hotaling, M.D.
Hotaling has first-hand knowledge of the trend as a urologist and the director of men’s health and male infertility at the University of Utah Health. He acknowledged that “We (Hotaling and his colleagues) have gotten a lot of questions with Roe vs. Wade being overturned, but I think interest has been gradually going up over the years.” Right now, Hotaling suggested doctors at U of U Health who perform vasectomies “are super busy.” He estimated they perform, on average, about 30 vasectomies a week.
U of U Health’s statistics reflects the increased demand for vasectomies that Hotaling has been experiencing. Those numbers show an upswing in interest beginning in April of this year when the hospital recorded 85 appointments for the procedure or consultation to schedule a vasectomy. By May, that number had almost doubled to 153 appointments and then shot up to 163 in June.
Vasectomies have long been viewed as a form of family planning. Hotaling described his average patients in this way: “The vast majority are married, but we do see young, single guys who tell us ‘I just never want kids.'” Nationally, more men are now speaking out to say they see family planning as a part of their role as a partner, and vasectomies feel like a smart and effective choice.
Once prospective male patients understand the potential physical effects of the procedure, they are reassured. “In the clinic, we explain that it is a five to 10-minute procedure. We put local numbing medication in, they’ll feel a little pinch and a burn, and they’ll be uncomfortable for maybe 10 seconds. Then, they will be able to talk to us while we’re doing the procedure and have to take it easy for a week or so,” Hotaling said. He added that most doctors don’t prescribe narcotic pain medications because it is unnecessary. Hotaling’s patients often leave his office and drive themselves home.
Men who choose to have a vasectomy may also have financial concerns in mind when it comes to further expanding a family or taking on the cost of having a child and raising them. However, the economic impact of the procedure is minimal if the patient has insurance. “Basically, all my insured patients are just paying their co-pay,” said Hotaling.
Despite the recent uptick in discussions about and decisions by men in the United States to have vasectomies, the country still lags well behind others regarding male sterilization. Men in Canada and the United Kingdom (U.K.) are twice as likely to get vasectomies as their female partners are to get sterilized, but in the U.S., the figures are reversed. According to a 2016 study by the Brookings Institution, a public policy organization in Washington DC, almost 23% of American women surveyed were sterilized compared to 11% of the men. In the U.K., only about 8% of the women interviewed were sterilized, while 21% of the men reported having had vasectomies.
Only about 5% to 6% of Hotaling’s patients see him for a vasectomy reversal. That procedure is not covered by insurance, and Hotaling said, “It should not be viewed as a reversible form of contraception but can, if necessary, be reversed with a 90+% success rate.”
The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe vs. Wade has prompted a healthy discussion about contraception across the country. Historically, contraception has been viewed as women’s work, given that they have used the most effective, long-lasting, and reversible forms of contraception. However, the current conversation has also raised awareness about vasectomies as an effective, low-cost, permanent, and safe method of contraception.
Will heightened interest in the procedure continue? Hotaling said, “I think it is too early to tell, but if people are really concerned about their birth control options, we may see more interest in vasectomies” now and in the future.