Swellness is a monthlong series exploring the health and wellness stuff no one talks about.
For the past two decades, the typical vasectomy candidate fit a common demographic: He was white, married, between 41 and 45 years old, and had two or more kids, the youngest nearly 3 years old. According to data from the National Survey of Family Growth, between 2006 and 2015, the primary reason men got vasectomies was that women and their husbands or partners did not wish to have any more kids.
Within the last year, this demographic has shifted. A growing population of younger men who don’t want children, and who are deciding this earlier, are seeking out the male-sterilization surgery in which the tubes that carry sperm are severed. As recently as 2017, only 4 percent of men who got vasectomies did not have any children, according to a 2021 analysis of NSFG data. Now, anecdotal reports find, younger men who don’t have — and don’t want — kids are increasing in numbers, and they are getting vasectomies to ensure this.
For many, the landmark Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade last summer pushed those considering the procedure into action. Abortion bans throughout the country and an increased focus on reproductive rights prompted men to take charge in their own family-planning decisions.
Six men who got vasectomies within the last year look back on their experience, the motivations that led them to the procedure, and how their families reacted.
Nathaniel, 36, support specialist, Mobile, Alabama
Why he got the procedure: My wife and I never wanted to have kids, so she was on birth control, and we used condoms. Then last June the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, and I couldn’t risk her getting pregnant and then us not having the option to seek an abortion. I told her I planned on getting a vasectomy. A month or so later, we separated. She said, “You should wait.” I think she was trying to be cautious that I wasn’t making any huge leaps for her. But I knew the decision to get a vasectomy was not just about her; it was about me. I know I don’t want children. If I’m going to be reentering the dating scene, I don’t want to have an accident that forces me to raise a child with someone who I might not necessarily like.
What his family thought: My parents were not happy. They’re like, “You’re getting a divorce. You never know what will happen.” No, but I know, for me, this is the right choice. If I wanted a family, I could adopt, or there are lots of single mothers out there and if it worked out, I wouldn’t say “no” to helping raise a child. My father is not my biological father. He took me and my brother in and raised us like we were his own. My mom was adopted. Blood isn’t important.
How it went: I paid 100 percent out of pocket because my insurance refused to pay anything. It was $1,000. They gave me a local anesthetic, had me kick my legs up. The doctor told me stories about his kids graduating while he did the procedure, and that was it. He made an incision and I believe used a laser to sever the vas deferens duct and a nonmagnetic clip to seal it off. It took maybe a half hour. I just went home and sat on the couch with a jockstrap that had these little ice packs that sat in there to keep the swelling down.
How he feels now: It was one of the top ten experiences of my life. Birth control can be pretty radical for women. Being able to do my own part, not just for peace of mind for myself but for any potential partners, really matters.
Alex, 25, research specialist in psychology and public policy, Princeton, New Jersey
Why he got the procedure: I had come to the decision that I didn’t want to have children probably three years ago. When the news about Roe v. Wade getting overruled was leaked last year, I started reading about how a vasectomy compares to other forms of contraceptives. The more I learned about it, the more it became a no-brainer. I’m single, so this was independent of anyone else.
How it went: I’m assuming if I were a woman and I were trying to get my tubes tied, I’d get a lot more questioning. But no, the doctor assumed that I already had kids because the majority of men who get this procedure have children. They injected a local anesthesia into the scrotum, and the procedure took 20 minutes; I went to work after. There’s mild soreness, but in terms of pain, it wasn’t any more painful than getting the flu shot.
On telling others: I posted about it on Twitter and people reached out to me saying that it helped convince them to schedule an appointment. It’s great to see that more people are considering this procedure and more men are taking responsibility for their and their partners’ sexual and reproductive health.
Isaac, 35, software developer, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Why he got the procedure: My wife and I have a son who’s 3 and a half years old. About six months ago, we had twins. We decided that was enough for us. My wife had always been on birth control. Before the twins were born, I brought up how now that we’re going to have three kids, I’d like to get a vasectomy, and she was fully supportive.
How it went: I was awake for the procedure, but they did a good job numbing me up with a local anesthetic. I didn’t really feel anything. They made two incisions, one on each testicle, and then cut the tube. Walking in the door to the clinic and walking out was maybe 20 minutes. The next day, I was in a decent amount of pain, but not like crippling pain; I could still walk around. I compared it to my wife being on birth control and the discomfort that she felt with an IUD, the long-term uncomfortableness that she had to go through. It felt like a week of pain was a much better option than having to put her through that long term.
On stress-free sex: It’s nice to know that we can have sex and not have to worry about getting pregnant and just do it because we love each other and want to have fun. We both really love our kids, but they are a lot of work. Not having that background stress and being able to enjoy each other’s bodies is great.
Eric, 31, sales consultant, Huntersville, North Carolina
Why he got the procedure: As I got really serious with my current partner, I knew we really didn’t want kids. I never thought too seriously about getting a vasectomy until I knew Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned. The day that it did, I scheduled a consultation. Even though we lived in Chicago at the time, which is very progressive in its abortion laws, we knew we were going to move to North Carolina. I knew there was a possibility that my most cherished loved one’s life could be at risk if something went wrong with an accidental pregnancy. I could easily completely eliminate that risk.
How it went: I was very apprehensive about the day itself only because I am unfamiliar with surgery. I asked, “Do I take a week off of work?” The doctor almost laughed at me. He said, “I have electricians and plumbers that come and get this done in the morning and work in the afternoon.” The whole thing, top to bottom, was maybe seven minutes. I felt a little pinch of discomfort during the procedure. The next day, I had some slight soreness, but by about a week later I was feeling fine. I had more discomfort at a dentist’s appointment. It cost $1,500 to $2,000. I was told insurance wouldn’t cover it. Then one day, I got a check in the mail from my insurance company for the entire amount out of nowhere.
What his partner thought: My partner was very supportive the whole way through. A few days after, she asked, “Any regrets?” I’m like, “No, not at all.” And she said, “Oh, thank God. I am so relieved.” Like she’d been holding it in the whole time. She didn’t want to feel like she was pushing me. It seemed like this weight had just been taken off of her. She admitted that until we were in the car she still wasn’t positive that I was going to do it.
Aaron, 35, postdoctoral fellow, Oakland, California
Why he got the procedure: I don’t identify as queer, but I’ve learned a lot from queer, chosen-family ideas. I don’t need to follow the nuclear-family reproduction path, but I’m interested in adoption. I’m interested in being a community member where I’m there for friends’ kids. For some people, various birth-control interventions cause side effects. Vasectomy’s only side effect is that, as far as I can tell, I can’t reproduce. I’m very okay with that. I had gotten a referral to talk to a urologist about a vasectomy back in 2021. But I didn’t get around to it. Once the overturning of Roe v. Wade came out, I didn’t need more motivation.
How it went: There is apparently a nerve in that area that can make you feel a little nauseous. During the procedure, I felt nauseous, in the same sense of getting kicked in the balls can make me feel nauseous. The doc was like, “No problem.” He moved something around, and I was fine. The worst part of the recovery process was not being able to exercise for a week because I ride bikes.
On having second thoughts: I had the briefest moment when I was waiting for the doctor, thinking, I wonder what my kids would’ve looked like? Then immediately I was like, Meh. It was reassuring that meh was the thought. My wife was in the waiting room and she was telling me afterward she had the same thought, and it was like, Cool, I’m glad we’re on the same page.
What others thought: I’m polyamorous, and it’s a factor in my other relationship world that if someone else wanted to have kids with me, that wouldn’t be a good match. Luckily, my girlfriend is also not interested in having kids, so it’s worked fine. My dad and I even compared our vasectomy experiences.
Cody, 36, software developer, Minneapolis
Why he got the procedure: I first strongly started considering a vasectomy two years ago when my fiancée went off birth control. I’d long thought about getting one because I wanted to have control over preventing pregnancies myself. Honestly, before now, I felt like I was too young, even though I have pretty firmly known that I did not want to be a father my whole life.
How it went: The worst part was the anxiety leading up to the surgery the day of, mostly related to anxiety about dropping my drawers in front of the doctor. The doctor was super-helpful and talked with me to keep my mind off it. After he gave me local anesthetic, I did feel slight tugging on my right side. I couldn’t feel anything after that. Insurance covered it. The amount charged was $1,980. My insurance paid $1,020.
What his family thought: I’ve only told three family members. My aunt cried, because it really meant I’d never have children. My sister and my fiancée’s sister are the others I’ve told, and they understand.
On stress-free sex: I’m so relieved that, frankly, I can enjoy sex now — carefree. It has definitely resulted in an improved sex life. If you’re in a relationship, there is zero reason a woman should have her tubes tied instead of the man having a vasectomy.
Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
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