Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Vasectomy: Long-Term Birth Control for Men?
Vasectomy has been on the brain a lot the last few weeks for a couple of reasons. First, Quaker Earthcare Witness has a program called "Men for Men" that provides financial assistance to men who are either members or regular attenders at a Quaker meeting and want to "permanently end their fertility."
I picked up a copy of their brochure at Gathering and was both excited that QEW has started this program and dismayed that, despite Quakers' concern for overpopulation, Quaker overpopulation is not, in fact, a problem.
Next came this article in the Times about vasectomy and how easy, fast, and effective it is.
On the highways between Austin and Houston you see billboard after billboard that say "VASECTOMY REVERSAL!!!" with an 800 number to call. Nobody seems to be willing to talk about whether or how vasectomy could be used as long-term birth control for men. I know that it is not physician practice to tell men patients that they can plan on a reversal in the future. But if vasectomy reversal is increasingly effective, why not?
A Google Scholar search gave me a couple of abstracts that said that pregnancy rates after vasectomy reversal ranged from about 40% to 60%, depending a lot on the age of the man's woman partner. Forty to 60% is way higher than other fertility treatments, so while it's not a guarantee of pregnancy, the chances are pretty good.
In terms of cost, a vasectomy costs about $500 and the reversal about $5000, so if, say, an 18 year old gets a vasectomy and then a reversal at 28 when he's ready to get a lady pregnant, the per month cost is about $45--just about the same cost as a month of the Nuva Ring or Yasmin.
So why are we so nervous about encouraging vasectomy as a reversible method of birth control? I've seen guys go pale in the face at the mere mention of vasectomy. Considering the parity in cost and the relatively low risks involved, I think it might be time for you guys out there to start thinking about vasectomy.
C'mon, it won't hurt a bit.