Male Surgical Sterilization
Permanent Birth Control
What is male sterilization?
Vasectomy is a very effective way to achieve permanent infertility in men through a routine surgical procedure.
How does surgical sterilization work?
The vas deferens tubes in the male carry sperm from the testes into the prostate where semen is stored. These tubes are surgically cut and tied to prevent the sperm from being able to escape during intercourse. This prevents sperm from joining the unfertilized egg. Although sterilization is an attractive alternative to reversible methods, as it does away with the need for planning and forethought before sex, it has drawbacks, most notably permanence.
How effective is a vasectomy?
Annual Failure Rate
Surgical sterilization is very effective, having a failure rate of only 0.15% per year. This means that less than 1 in 600 men who have a vasectomy will have a surprise pregnancy, However, this failure rate does not include failures due to pregnancies that result as a result of having intercourse before all sperm are cleared from the ejaculate, which can take several months. Additionally, unplanned pregnancy may occur due to surgical error or even spontaneous regeneration of the cut vas deferens tubes. Nonetheless, vasectomy is perhaps the most effective method of conventional contraception.
Side-effects and health risks of vasectomy
Sterilization requires local anesthesia and surgery, which carries potential health risks. Side-effects include post-operative pain, bruising, and infection. A small number of men have chronic testicular pain as a result of the procedure (2%). The medical risks are minimal and far fewer than female sterilization. There has been some speculation that vasectomy increases the risk of prostate cancer, but findings are conflicting and not conclusive. The most common long-term problem is regret, which may arise due to unforeseen circumstances, such as change in marital status or death of a child. Some men seek reversal, but success cannot be guaranteed.
Considerations for Christians
Surgical sterilization is generally chosen by married men. This is because it is a permanent method, used mostly by men who already have children and have decided not to have any more.
Surgical Sterilization is considered artificial contraception, and as such is not permissible for use by Roman Catholics, perhaps even more so than other methods due to its finality. Most Protestant denominations do not have issue with surgical sterilization used within a marriage.
- Male Sterilization: Contraceptive Information Resource (Contracept.info)
- Vasectomy: Epigee Women's Resources (Epigee.org)
- Vasectomy Reversal: Epigee Women's Resources (Epigee.org)
Source for Failure Rates: RA Hatcher et al, "Female and Male Sterilization," Contraceptive Technology, Ardent Media, 2005.