The number of men who had vasectomies increased 26 percent between 2014 and 2021, a new study from researchers at the University of Chicago found.
The researchers — who said the findings reflect a “remarkable surge” — decided to look into the subject in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision to see if anticipation of abortion restrictions increased interest in vasectomies in the preceding years. Vasectomies are a form of male birth control that “cuts the supply of sperm to semen,” according to the Mayo Clinic. The procedure is done by cutting and sealing the tubes that carry sperm. Vasectomies are considered permanent, but vasectomy reversals are sometimes possible.
Researchers used commercial health insurance claims data to calculate the annual vasectomy rate among U.S. men between the ages of 18-64. The study found that the percentage of all male patients undergoing the procedure in a given year increased from 0.427 percent in 2014 to 0.537 percent in 2021, a 26 percent increase.
Interestingly, the study found that the relative increases were greatest in men with no children (61 percent), men with an older wife (41 percent), single men (41 percent), and young men 18 to 24 (37 percent).
The absolute changes were greatest in men with three or more children (0.489 percent), with two children (0.295 percent), with a wife not of advanced maternal age (0.276 percent), and those ages 35-44 (0.243 percent). The absolute and relative changes were greater in rural geographies compared to urban geographies, the study found.
The authors noted that the absolute numbers among the general population remains low, with roughly 4 percent of men reporting undergoing sterilization.
The researchers said they intend to investigate post-Dobbs trends as soon as data becomes available.
“Google Trends analyses, media outlets and retrospective reviews of billing and electronic medical records from academic hospitals have suggested even greater interest in vasectomies after the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” wrote the study’s authors.
Abortion giant Planned Parenthood said in October of 2022 that it had seen a 53 percent increase in vasectomy information searches on its national web page. Affiliates of Planned Parenthood around the country have also said they are experiencing a surge in calls about the procedure since the Supreme Court returned the issue of abortion to states and their elected representatives. The abortion giant is offering the procedure in many states around the country, sometimes employing “mobile vasectomy clinics” or offering the procedure free to uninsured men.
Data from Google Trends also shows a spike in interest in vasectomies after the Dobbs decision last June, although the number of search results has since stabilized.
“While survey and health insurance claims data from 2022 are not yet available to directly study this relationship, our findings offer valuable context on permanent contraceptive utilization in men in the years leading up to the landmark decision,” said Dr. Omer Raheem, assistant professor of surgery-urology and the senior author of the study.
Dr. Monica Dragoman, system director of the complex family planning division in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, told UPI that the research shows some men are “leaning in” and “taking more responsibility to prevent unintended pregnancy.”
“The reasons are deeply personal and multifactorial, but motivations can include concerns for their partner and fear about having kids they don’t want,” Dragoman said.
Dragoman warned that men should give the procedure a lot of thought before going through with it, because they may not be able to “count on an easy reversal” if they change their minds.
“Following vasectomy, successful pregnancy following a reversal is a possibility. However, this likelihood decreases over time and there is no guarantee of pregnancy,” Dragoman said. “People pursuing vasectomy with the idea that they will reverse when they are ready for childbearing are probably not the right candidates for the procedure.”
The study, called “Trends in the Vasectomy Rate Among Privately Insured Men Aged 18–64 in the United States Between 2014 and 2021,” was published in Urology in June 2023. Study co-authors include Zhong Huang and Max J. Hyman.