By Shirelle Edghill, CFCP
It always amazes me how casually women will talk about their husband’s vasectomies.
“Oh, my husband got ‘fixed,” or “My husband got the big V.”
Sometimes I wonder how the woman would feel if the man so casually dropped such personal information about his wife’s tubal ligation or breast augmentation into conversation with his buddies.
Two years ago I worked with a couple who were desperate to have the man’s vasectomy reversed. They had chosen to have the vasectomy shortly after the traumatic pre-term birth of a baby. The man suffered from post vasectomy pain syndrome, making it difficult for him to even sit through a 90 minute introductory class without being in pain. Helping him find a surgeon to perform a reversal wasn’t the easy task that you might think it would be. Just call the urologist who did the vasectomy, right? Nope. He had to travel hundreds of miles to find a doctor willing and able to perform the surgery, and insurance did not cover it. He lived near a major Metropolitan area, yet there was not one surgeon in the area who offered vasectomy reversals. When these procedures require travel, there is also additional risk of complications such as blood clots. It’s also probably pretty dehumanizing to be sitting in a wheelchair at an airport with an ice pack on your crotch. Thankfully, he was able to have the vasectomy successfully reversed, his chronic pain was gone, and the couple chose to continue avoiding pregnancy using the Creighton Model FertilityCare System. In addition to helping the couple plan their family in a natural, healthy way, we continued to work with the couple to assess why the woman had a history of pre-term birth, exploring possible hormonal or other factors.
Upon observation, it also seems more common for more “natural minded” or “crunchy” women to see vasectomy as a more healthy option. I can see why it does seem to be a better option than hormonal contraceptives for the woman, but maybe we can all agree that having a healthy, functioning body part that hasn’t been cut and burned is just logically more healthy and natural for the person involved?
In North American society there’s a double standard that I see when it comes to men of a certain social class being expected to have vasectomies. In online forums, women will talk of a certain man’s hesitancy to have this procedure done or his pain after having it done with a tone of scorn for his apparent weakness.
“He needs to man up and get this done.”
“I did all the work of pregnancy. Now it’s HIS turn.”
“I’ll get him his bag of peas and some ibuprofen and he can lay around and watch sports for a few days.”
“Getting one from a doctor is better than getting a DIY one from You Tube” (an actual quote I lifted from a local Mom’s group I’m in.)
“My husband had a vasectomy today-cheers! Now he’s crying like a baby” -insert eyeroll emoji (also a paraphrased quote lifted from the same local mom’s group).
Go ahead. Go search 'vasectomy' in that online mommy group you’re in. You’ll see what I’m talking about.
If the situation were reversed and a man was talking about his wife in this way, or if he was pressuring her to be sterilized, most reasonable women would find this misogynistic and disrespectful. We as women would probably be extremely hurt if our man was out there posting about our pain in a facebook group for all their friends to laugh at. Or if they were online in a public forum trying to crowdsource how to convince their wife to be sterilized.
When it comes to women, there is a lot of talk about “My body, my choice.” Does this hold true for men? Is it ok with you if he is hesitant or if he DOESN’T want to cut his body? Do you fully support him in that? Or will you nag him or belittle him until he gets it done?
When my husband and I got married we stood up in front of our friends and family and promised to love each other, fully and completely. We promised to love all of one another. Implied in this, is that we promised to even love the parts of the other that might be inconvenient. He should love me when my hormones are constantly changing from day to day, when my skin is stretching from pregnancy, and when I’m a postpartum mess. Those things are all part of me. Along with my emotional and spiritual self, my body and what it can do, is ME. I am not separate from it. Biology isn’t fair. I think some women feel that vasectomy somehow evens the playing field. Nature, God, or whatever you believe in, seems to have dealt an uneven hand when it comes to reproductive responsibilities in human beings, and some might feel that vasectomy provides a level of justice to us women.
On another level, there are many misconceptions about vasectomy. One of the most common ones is that it is an easy process to have reversed. It’s not. In the words of a rare urologist who actually does these reversals, “It’s much easier to break something than it is to fix it.” There are very few physicians who are trained to reverse vasectomies. For fear of law suits over unintended pregnancies, the procedure is not meant to be reversed. It’s meant to be permanent. Insurance companies love to pay for vasectomies (babies cost money!), but they are unlikely to pay for a reversal, EVEN if there is a complication that necessitates it.
Post vasectomy pain syndrome is difficult to diagnose and treat. It is defined as more than three months of chronic scrotal pain following a vasectomy. Studies and surveys are mixed on the frequency that this occurs, ranging from extremely rare, at less than 1% and upwards of 15% in some surveys. Men who suffer from the after-effects of vasectomy may experience chronic pain that can make it difficult to function in normal life.
Another point to consider is that often couples are making the decision to have a vasectomy during an emotionally vulnerable time. Many times it’s soon after the birth of a baby when the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth are fresh on our minds. We might be in the temporary throws of infancy, dealing with a lack of sleep or colic. But humans are terrible predictors of what we might want in the future. A vasectomy is a permanent decision to prevent a man from fathering a child. Forever. If the wife passes away and the man would like to remarry, he may not have the option of having a child with his new wife. What if that’s a deal breaker for her? If circumstances change in your own lives-perhaps you lose a child and would then consider having another child, you may not be able to. If you just decide you’d really like to add to your family, you can’t do so without a lot of difficulty.
So, for the women out there…before you jump on the bandwagon and start saying,
“Yeah, he really SHOULD get a vasectomy! He owes me one for all the pregnancy and childbirth stuff!”
Give this attitude a second thought. Is this the attitude of a wife that wants the best for her husband? Is it an attitude of love and respect? Consider that there may be ways to achieve the same end of responsible parenthood in a healthy way that respects both of your bodies.
Thank you for reading. Please email me with comments or questions at: