How young is too young to get snipped?
September 8, 2009 6:35 PM   Subscribe

At what age is it reasonable to consider a vasectomy? (NWS?)

I understand the potential for regret or remorse in the case of vasectomies. That being said,
A. How old should one be before one could be sure enough in the decision to get a vasectomy?
B. How young is 'too young' for medical professionals to perform a vasectomy? (Assuming that the decision is wholly that of the person to be operated on)

Just for clarification, my reasons for being interested in the matter are
A. that I have no interest in having children,
B. that I feel it slightly unethical considering the global population, and
C. that if I were to change my mind, I place no special value in a child being genetically mine or not, so adoption would likely be the solution there.

(I'd rather this not be about my reasons for being interested in the matter, but moreso about when I can be reasonably secure in the knowledge that my beliefs on the matter aren't likely to change any time soon, and when I could reasonably get the procedure performed.)
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is a tough question because you never know how life, aging and "growing up" will change you. I don't think there's a particular number of years where your mind won't change about children anymore, I think the only reasonable policy is on an individual basis. That being said...maybe somewhere around 18-20 at an absolute minimum?
posted by Phyltre at 6:43 PM on September 8, 2009

I know lots of people SAY they don't want kids but most guys aren't even willing to think about settling down until mid-twenties. And even if you are a person who wants to get married and thinks they don't want kids... there's still a chance you might want to. There are other ways to prevent getting pregnant besides this which is pretty permanent. I know it's reversible in some cases.

I'd say 25 minimum and 30 even better.
posted by mittenbex at 6:47 PM on September 8, 2009

I knew I wanted one from the time I was 16 or so - I asked for one at 18, and the doctor said no. I asked again at 24 and had it done. Then I met my wife, and decided to get it reversed at 33, and though I am with you on being fine with adoption, that's not my wife's view, so it's not necessarily only your viewpoint that matters in that equation. Which is an anecdotal way of saying what Phyltre wrote.
posted by birdsquared at 6:58 PM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

This may not be directly relevant, but I'm going to throw it in as a data point:
I remember having these kind of discussions when we were in our 20s. I was (still am!) friends with a large group of engineers, both male and female. It's a group of well-educated, thoughtful folks, not prone to rash decisions. All practiced birth control religiously.
Most of the folks in the group swore up and down they would never have kids. Only a handful were sure they would definitely have kids.
Now, we're all in our late 30s/early 40s. Over time, ~90% of the group got married, settled down and started having kids. None were "oops" babies. There are only 2 people from the original group (myself included!) that never had kids who said they wouldn't.
I really hate to be the person who says "You may change your mind someday" because I would get so angry when people would say that to me, but statistically speaking, you really may change your mind. So, even though it drove me nuts when complete strangers who didn't know me at all would "pass judgment on me", I now understand why people always said it.

That being said, physically, you can have the operation at any time after you become an adult, but I don't know of any doctors that will perform it that young. I'm sure if you were determined, though, you could find one.
Emotionally, I think early/mid 30s is appropriate, although, ideally, you'd wait until you met your life partner.
posted by j at 7:06 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Maybe you could freeze some sperm first, in case you end up falling in love with someone for whom this would be a dealbreaker? But if that's the case, then you might as well just wait until after you've met her.
posted by hermitosis at 7:12 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

that if I were to change my mind, I place no special value in a child being genetically mine or not, so adoption would likely be the solution there.

I know it's 95% biological, and 5% cultural, but I want to bear my spouse's child. It would not have been a dealbreaker if he was snipped, but I'd be pretty disappointed. Even if you are a gay man, you can't predict the feelings of a future life partner.

But hey, nothing in life is certain, and it's a procedure that can (usually) be reversed, right? The hardest part is undoubtedly convincing a doctor to do it. That's a matter of persistence.
posted by muddgirl at 7:17 PM on September 8, 2009

I think the point at which you can be most secure in the knowledge that you don't want children will be at the point in your life when you would most reasonably have one, namely, when you're in a stable relationship and financially able to support a child. This is especially true if your friends have kids. If you've reached the point of general financial and relationship stability and you still feel the same way about not having kids, that is the time you'll be least likely to change your mind.
posted by Diagonalize at 7:17 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I agree with the above posters... it's not just up to you. When you put this statement in your question, it makes me fear you don't know enough about relationships to make this decision: (Assuming that the decision is wholly that of the person to be operated on)

I'm not saying that you don't, but you should consider that maybe you don't know how you'll maximize your utility at all points in the future -- it's not that you get better at making decisions as you get older; you'll actually change the way you evaluate choices so much that it's a different 'game'
posted by zpousman at 7:18 PM on September 8, 2009

I love your question.

I am female, but have sort of the opposite consideration. It seems I am having problems conceiving (not surprising considering past health issues) and I'm not sure I really want to do anything about it besides adopting one day when my husband and I decide that's appropriate for us.

I think the answer to your question relies on your feelings with your Life Partner.

Do you have one? Or do you just think you have one? Or have you not yet met "The One"?

For personal reasons, I NEVER thought I wanted my own children. I kinda always thought I would adopt one day on my own if I didn't end up marrying the right guy. So wasn't I surprised when Mr. Jbenben finally came along!

I'm lucky. Mr. Jbenben is really happy to adopt one day, as am I. So we don't really worry about this infertility thing day-to-day.

But if YOU are 20's or 30's (or even if you are not!) you might fall in love one day with a woman who desperately wants biological children - and you may want children with HER, too.

My off-the-cuff response to your question is this:

You can reasonably get the procedure performed when you are able to knowingly x-out any "true love potentials" that you may come across in the future who will want biological children.

Politically speaking, I totally get your reasoning. My husband "gets" it, too. Will your future wife? Or will you lose out on the best thing EVER because you stood on principle?

I don't have the same choice available to me that you do right now thanks to past health issues, but my considerations over the years have been similar.

FWIW - I can't answer your question now because I was almost always facing infertility issues and adjusted my expectations accordingly throughout my adult life. All I can say is that I hope any Life Partner you share yourself with shares your beliefs and expectations regarding your beliefs. Worked out for me, and it could for you, too.

posted by jbenben at 7:18 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

My ex was 22 (or maybe 23). There was a mandatory 2-week waiting period from the "initial" consultation, which consisted of him visiting the urologist for five minutes and making an appointment for 2 weeks later on the way out the door. I tried to volunteer medical reasons against me getting pregnant, but the doctor didn't seem to care -- it's what the man involved was sure he wanted, and that's all the doctor cared about (which is probably the right attitude!).

If you're sure, you're sure.
posted by motsque at 7:21 PM on September 8, 2009

It's quite the philosophical conundrum, thinking about changing your mind, and whether you should stymie your future self's efforts to do something your current self sees as unethical.

You might be interested in this, this, and this. You should also watch the movie Children of Men if you haven't already.

Personally, I vote vasectomy.
posted by phrontist at 7:28 PM on September 8, 2009

Another angle to consider: what is your rush? If you are in a relationship that's one thing, but if you're thinking that this is a reasonable alternative to condoms for casual dating, I have two thoughts:

1) I don't think vasectomies protect against STDs
2) I'm personally not particularly trusting, so if some 20-yr-old in college was like, "Hey! We don't need a condom! I had a vasectomy!" I'd laugh him out of the room.
posted by muddgirl at 7:45 PM on September 8, 2009 [4 favorites]

To question B, from a few discussions I've had (and this varies wildly by practitioner), they generally will attempt you to dissuade you unless you are (one or more of the following):

1) at least late twenties in age, but preferably into the thirties
2) the parent of two or more children
3) the recipient of or carrier for a significant genetic disorder

Other countries, other practices, step right in and they'll snip you right up.

With regards to putting the question to a life partner, you might turn it around and say, "If I get a vasectomy, future life partners will be filtered out to some degree to those people who are okay with my decision." That can be bad, because it can cut down on your pool of candidates for LTR, but on the other hand, you are more likely to end up with someone who knows you are serious about your decision and would be respectful of it, rather than trying to change your mind at some later date.
posted by adipocere at 7:55 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I fathered two children when I was in my 30's. I have enjoyed the task of influencing them into becoming young men who can make a positive contribution to the world. The experience of caring for your wife as she gestates your child, holding your newborn, remembering about sleep, trying to not hover over the little ones as they explore, and more, cannot done vicariously.

On the other hand, once you have the vasectomy things are a lot more simple and can be more fun. Sex with your partner while she is fertile is a real blast, when you don't have to avoid pregnancy.

Wait until you are 30 to get snipped, that is my vote.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:04 PM on September 8, 2009

Are you old enough to consent to surgery? If so, you are old enough.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:06 PM on September 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

Now is a reasonable age to consider, research, and obtain a vasectomy. Your local Planned Parenthood can assist you with physician referrals.
And if it turns out that a potential mate has baby rabies, she's not likely to be "the one," is she.
Watch this to further solidify your wise decision.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:56 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Interesting question.

I did the snip-snip thing at the ripe old age of 38. I'm now 42... and of late I've had an extremely fascinating (to me) surge of paternal feelings kick in. It's occurred to me of late that maybe I'm now unselfish enough that I might could make a decent parent (something that I'd easily concede I was far too self-centered to consider before.) Whether this is something that's come about as a result of age alone, or whether there's an as-yet-unidentified *something* (like the abatement of risk of an unplanned pregnancy)... who knows?

Hey, it's your call. And reversal isn't out of the question. But if you think you're done thinking about it... you're probably not.
posted by deCadmus at 9:38 PM on September 8, 2009

I agree with the above posters... it's not just up to you.

Of course it's up to him. Or are you saying that he doesn't have reproductive rights? This action may filter out potential partners who do want children, and he should certainly disclose this in any serious relationship. But it's absolutely up to him if he wants to live a life without having children.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:11 PM on September 8, 2009 [3 favorites]

My husband and I married over a year ago. I'm about 8 years his senior. My kids are 12 and 11 now. My husband and I have been together over 6 years now. I had my tubes tied when my youngest was born, so I obviously wasn't interested in more kids. I quizzed him down more than once before we married about his interest in having "his own" kids. I got mean about it on more than one occasion, just to be sure. He said then and continues now to be happy with the kids we have, albeit shared somewhat with the bio dad and extended family in that direction. It's nice for us to have date nights and weekends alone. It's also good for the kids to get time doing something completely different with their dad, stepmom, and other siblings.

I'm now over 40, so really not interested in pregnancy, infancy, etc., ever again, and we still seem to be on the same page. He's a great day-to-day influence on the children, and on me really.

There are all kinds of variations of parenting, if you're interested in parenting. Adoption is one way. Step-parenting is another. No kids at all is another. All are valid. It's all up to you.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:59 AM on September 9, 2009

Hello, younger me.

A. How old should one be before one could be sure enough in the decision to get a vasectomy?

I was old enough at 22. I guess. 35 now and I haven't regretted it.

B. How young is 'too young' for medical professionals to perform a vasectomy?

I had mine done very young. I was single with no kids. Three doctors flatly wouldn't agree to see me for it. The fourth made me visit three times "to make sure I was serious" before scheduling the operation.

FWIW my reasons were identical to your own and haven't changed thus far.
posted by anti social order at 6:11 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got a vasectomy when I was 20 and I won it in a contest. Seriously. I was going to school in Portland OR at the time in 1994 and the weekly newspaper had a contest over Valentine's Day that some sort of reverend ran called "Get Your Lover's Knot Tied for Valentine's Day". The gist is that this reverend was against abortion but was pro-choice and had figured the best way to do away with unwanted pregnancies was to have more men have vasectomies. Anyway, they ran this contest and I won. At the time I was 100 percent sure I never wanted to have children. I did get it done, and despite the valium they gave me it is disquieting to see people working away down there.

I will tell you this, two years later I had no prospects of getting married, having a long term partner etc...but I was seriously thinking that maybe I'd made the wrong decision. It really weighed on my mind quite a bit for reasons I'm not sure of. I would never have thought so, and it wasn't dramatic, but there was a very subtle, nagging feeling that I'd cut off a possibility and I wasn't all the way comfortable with that.

Six months later I got someone pregnant. Turns out the Vas deferens had reconnected themselves. Please be aware of this possibility if you get the procedure. They will tell you that three out of 1000 will reconnect but I know of four people personally who have had vasectomies and three of them had trouble with sperm still being present. Let me just say that you are supposed to masturbate and have 20 ejaculations in order to clear your system of sperm and then you are to bring a semen sample in so that they can check that you are clear. Due to the fact that I was living the most responsible of lifestyles (I was 21, imagine that!) I failed to do this. Don't fail to do this. The other men I know were not irresponsible and did go in, and three of them still had sperm present.
posted by josher71 at 6:32 AM on September 9, 2009

There were three important factors I focused on when deciding whether to get a vasectomy:

1) The planet certainly is overpopulated. "Go forth and multiply" made sense about five billion people ago.

1.5) I don't think my genetic material's specialness is so special that it would overcome the certain drain on common natural resources. In fact, given my A.D.D., I wouldn't want to pass that on to any kids of mine.

2) Can I afford to have children?

3) Would I be a great parent? If I decided later that I would be, are there other ways of becoming a parent?

The last factor was the hardest to decide on. When I was about 22, I had an older friend who told me that you don't really have any idea what kind of person you really are until you're at least 30. I laughed it off, but my personality changed a great deal between 22 and 30. When I was 19, I was sure I'd be having three children. Now I'm 34, and glad every day that I don't have any.
posted by bryanjbusch at 6:35 AM on September 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had my vas done when I was 26, and there wasn't any waiting period or anything for me. My gf and I had a pregnancy scare when I was 24 and that pretty much confirmed myself as a childfree-for-life person. I'd already been considering the surgery for a couple years at that point anyway. I don't know if my doc bypassed any waiting period because I sounded so sure of my decision or what, but my process was "mention I was interested in getting one done at a yearly checkup and then make the appointment". I probably would have gotten it done earlier but I didn't really see the point (we broke up shortly afterwards for unrelated issues and I was going through a several-year-long dry spell at that point).

I'm 33 now and no regrets at all.
posted by bigdamnnerd at 9:02 AM on September 9, 2009

It's your point C) that makes me think now is not really the time. You're still open to the possibility of changing your mind, and if you do change your mind and want children, adoption is a) not an easy road and b) not necessarily going to be a totally acceptable choice for your partner.

When you're really sure about A) whether for reason B) or some other reason, go ahead and ask (though don't be surprised if it's an issue with your doctor). It's not about age, it's about knowing yourself.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2009

Oh for heaven's sake. It is ABSOLUTELY just up to you. I am a woman who does not want children. Actually for a lot of the reasons you mentioned. If I ever were to get those "maternal urges" (and God help me, I haven't so far, at 28) I would adopt. But I would never ever not get one "just in case" it made somebody not want me. It is my choice. It is your choice. If the partner you choose to be with decides that's a deal breaker, well... if they really do love you they work around it. But don't not do it just in case some future partner might not like it.
posted by dithmer at 3:03 PM on September 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

I worked assisting vasectomies a few years back. The physician I worked with refused to perform the procedure on anyone under the age of 25. The only exceptions made were for younger men with histories of hereditary physical or mental health problems.

Age cutoffs are somewhat arbitrary, yes, but there's something to be said for waiting just a little bit longer before undergoing a permanent procedure. If you are comforted when you think about the possibility of later reversal of your vasectomy, you are not ready.
posted by girlstyle at 7:00 PM on September 9, 2009

#1. You are old enough when you decide you want only partners who share your attitudes.

You have been cautioned here that vasectomy will limit your future relationship options. True, but it will expand them as well. "I have a vasectomy" are four magic words that have gotten me fucked six ways from Sunday no longer than it takes to rip each other's clothes off. Some women, when they realize they can have sex without worrying about pregnancy, find that to be an aphrodisiac.

#2. You are old enough when your views and preferences are real.

I don't know about you, since you were not raised in a cult. But I was raised being told by all the adults in my life that I would change my mind about this, that, and the other. There came a time-- longer into my adulthood than I like to admit-- when I realized the magical attitude changes they predicted were never going to happen because the adults I grew up around had all been full of shit. I cast off their superstitions and lived the way that made me happy. I found people who were happy the same way, and surrounded myself with them. I'm 35, with no children. I had my vasectomy when I was 31. I told the doctor, if I'm not old enough at 31 to make up my own mind, when will I be?

Can you smoke? Can you drink? Can you vote? Can you be drafted and die for your country? So ask yourself then: are you a child? A naif? Mentally handicapped? What is it that makes you incapable of knowing your own mind? If there is no answer to this question, get a vasectomy.
posted by Matt Arnold at 12:05 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Turns out the Vas deferens had reconnected themselves. Please be aware of this possibility if you get the procedure. They will tell you that three out of 1000 will reconnect but I know of four people personally who have had vasectomies and three of them had trouble with sperm still being present.

The trick around that is to have the majority of the vas removed, not just cut or tied off. If you remove the whole structure there's no chance of it growing back unless you're wolverine.
posted by anti social order at 2:17 PM on September 24, 2009

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