A vasectomy is a form of permanent birth control that prevents sperm from entering semen — the fluid ejaculated from the penis. The body still makes sperm, but sperm is absorbed by the body. Semen ejaculated after a vasectomy typically contains no sperm.
Under various U.S. laws, the youngest a person can be to have a vasectomy is typically between 16 and 18 depending on the age of legal consent in each state. Vasectomies at federally funded agencies require that you be at least 21 for this procedure.
In general, vasectomies are usually performed on people in their 20s, 30s, or beyond who’ve decided not to have children.
But some healthcare professionals may not agree to perform the procedure or refer you to a specialist based on a variety of factors, including the notion that you might regret the decision later in life.
A vasectomy can also be reversed, so it’s not entirely permanent. But though success rates for vasectomy reversals have improved in recent years, reversal can be expensive and sometimes complex.
This means that getting a vasectomy at a young age should be carefully considered and discussed with healthcare professionals.
Read on to learn the average age that most people get vasectomies, whether you can be too advanced in age to get a vasectomy, how the procedure works, and how a reverse vasectomy can be done.
Most people seeking a vasectomy want to avoid an unplanned pregnancy. Some simply don’t want to use other forms of birth control. But there are other reasons why a vasectomy is an appealing option for some people.
- In some couples, one partner may not be able to take birth control medications like pills or shots.
- Vasectomy may result in a much lower risk of accidental pregnancy than birth control medication due to the absence of sperm altogether.
- Vasectomy is generally safer and less invasive than tubal ligation. This is done by tying off the fallopian tubes so that an egg can’t reach the uterus and be fertilized. This procedure is more complex and may have a higher risk of side effects.
- Some couples who carry inheritable genes for certain health conditions or genetic disorders may want to avoid the risk of passing on a genetic disorder.
In general, anyone can choose to have a vasectomy after turning 18 years old in any jurisdiction in the United States.
But there may be obstacles that someone faces when they choose to have a vasectomy when they’re in certain age groups.
Vasectomy before 18
While the age of consent — the minimum age a person can legally consent to having sexual intercourse — is younger than 18 in many states, no states legally allow vasectomies before the age of 18.
The logic behind this is that vasectomy is permanent, and the person electing to have the procedure may decide to have children later in life but be unable to. Reversals are possible in many cases, but they can be expensive and sometimes impossible.
There are no documented cases of successful, legal vasectomies being performed on someone younger than 18.
Vasectomy at 18
A vasectomy at age 18 may be legal, but doctors can refuse to perform the procedure if:
- they believe that the individual is too young to make an informed decision
- they feel that the person may regret the decision and want a reversal later on
- they have underlying health conditions that may make a vasectomy risky
But people can still successfully have vasectomies after the age of 18, and there are no laws that prohibit vasectomy after 18. Doctors who refuse to perform these procedures on no other legal grounds may be subject to legal action, like malpractice suits.
Vasectomy at 21
Many doctors believe that 21 is still too young for an individual to make a potentially life-altering decision. The National Institutes of Health also report that people who choose to get vasectomies in their 20s are much more likely to want a reversal than people in any other age group.
Some doctors may require younger patients to wait 24 to 72 hours after learning about the long-term effects of a vasectomy before committing to the procedure.
Vasectomy at 25
By age 25, many individuals have become parents or are in relationships in which a vasectomy seems to be a logical choice for them to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancies for health or personal reasons.
Most doctors also believe that 25 isn’t an unreasonable age to get the procedure, so a person may meet much less resistance from medical professionals if they seek a vasectomy at this age.
But doctors are still likely to counsel 25 year-olds to consider other birth control options. They may also recommend that they store sperm in a sperm bank for future fertilization procedures if they’re still considering having a child in the future.
Vasectomy after 25
After age 25, vasectomies become much more common.
A 2018 study found that the average age for a person getting a vasectomy was 37 years old for people living in cities, and about 36 for those in rural communities. The average person getting a vasectomy was also found to have one to three children.
Research in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that the average age for a vasectomy was about 35, with the typical age range for the procedure between the ages of 30 and 56.
There’s no upper age limit for a vasectomy for someone in generally good health who isn’t taking medications like blood thinners that can increase the risk of complications.
For someone with greater risks of complications associated with any surgery or medical procedure, the risks and benefits of a vasectomy should be weighed carefully.
Some side effects can occur after a vasectomy and may be more common in older individuals, including:
- hematoma (bleeding under the skin)
- granuloma (a lump in the scrotum formed by sperm that leaks out of the vas deferens, the sperm-carrying ducts that are cut during a vasectomy)
- vasectomy failure (a small risk that pregnancy can occur after a vasectomy)
Heterosexual couples should also take the fertility of their partner into consideration.
Many people with vulvas over 45 years old are typically no longer able to have children naturally. In these cases, someone considering a vasectomy with an older partner may not need a vasectomy to prevent pregnancy.
But if an older person seeking a vasectomy has a younger partner who’s still able to conceive naturally, they may be a much better candidate for a vasectomy in order to prevent pregnancy.
Talk with a doctor or reproductive health specialist to decide whether vasectomy or other birth control options should be considered.
There are two common methods for vasectomy procedures: the traditional “scalpel” method and the “no-scalpel” method. The “no-scalpel” is less invasive than the traditional method.
Both are typically performed by urologists as outpatient procedures rather than in a hospital or surgical facility. Here’s how each method works.
- A surgeon makes two small incisions in the scrotum.
- The surgeon inserts an instrument to cut the vas deferens and tie off or cauterize the ends with heat. There are two vas deferens, so two cuts must be made.
- The surgeon sews up the incisions with stitches.
- A surgeon makes a small hole in the side of the scrotum and pulls the vas deferens through the hole.
- A small section of the vas deferens is cut out, tied off, or cauterized.
- The vas deferens are placed back inside the scrotum. The hole will heal on its own without stitches or sutures.
A vasectomy reversal is an outpatient procedure which may be done with oral or intravenous anesthesia (through an IV), but this procedure most commonly involves general anesthesia that’ll allow you to remain unconscious throughout the procedure.
Two types of vasectomy reversals are possible: a vasovasostomy (VV) and an epididymovasostomy (EV). Both procedures involve the reconnecting of the vas deferens to allow the free flow of sperm within your semen.
Keep in mind that the surgeon will ultimately make the decision to perform one of these procedures based on a few key factors:
- quality of seminal fluid behind the vasectomy site
- whether or not sperm are actually present in semen
- how long it’s been since the original vasectomy (EV is more common if it’s been over 10 years)
Consult with a surgeon and ask if they’re experienced in both of these types of reversal procedures. This can help increase the chance that the reversal is successful.
Ultimately, rates of sperm recovery are between 71 and 97 percent, while pregnancy rates are closer to 30 to 76 percent.
A vasectomy can be legally performed on someone older than 18, but some doctors may refuse to do the procedure because they believe that this permanent procedure isn’t appropriate for someone at a relatively young age.
As a person gets older, vasectomies become more common and more widely accepted. There’s no official upper-age limit for a vasectomy, but if your partner is past their childbearing years, there’s no real risk in avoiding a vasectomy.
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