March 26, 2009 -- In these tough economic times, more men are making a tough decision: vasectomy.
Urologists across the country are reporting that nearly twice as many men have been seeking permanent sterilization via vasectomy since the economic crisis began.
There's no official count but it's clearly a trend, says Lawrence Ross, MD, professor of urology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a past president of the American Urological Association.
"We are definitely, in our experience in Chicago, seeing increasing numbers of patients requesting vasectomy. A rough estimate is perhaps twice the number per week we saw a year ago," Ross tells WebMD.
"Since mid-November we've gone from 40 or 45 to about 70 or 75 a month," J. Stephen Jones, MD, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic's department of regional urology, tells WebMD.
"I am seeing a lot more men coming in for vasectomy, and they are saying the reason they're doing it now is they're losing their insurance," David Shin, MD, chief of the Center for Sexual Health & Fertility at Hackensack University Medical Center, N.J., tells WebMD.
One of those men is Peter Collum of Upper Saddle River, N.J. Three months ago, Collum was laid off from his job as an investment banker. His severance package runs out next month.
"It's not like being out of work was the only driver for getting a vasectomy," Collum tells WebMD. "But it's a lot easier having this done while I'm unemployed."
Collum's third child was born four months ago. He and his wife had planned on two to four kids; when the third was born they knew their family was big enough.
Like other urologists, Shin always counsels men before performing the sterilization procedure. In previous years, he says, men simply told him they didn't want another child.
"But now economics plays a role," Shin says. "We live in a time where people are saying, 'Times are tough, and there is not going to be the disposable income to pay for food and diapers and to save up for college tuition.'"
One of Jones' patients didn't have far to travel after losing his job.
"One very demonstrative patient was a gentleman who had a great job for three or four years, working on a federally funded road project just out the door from our clinic," Jones says. "When the job went away, he came into my office and said, 'In this environment, I don't feel I could have any more children.' And I think there are a thousand more stories like that."
Many of the men now coming into urologists' offices had already decided on vasectomy, but were motivated to act by fear of losing their health insurance. Others had even more pragmatic concerns.
"Couples are finding ways of trying to save money, so they don't go out to a fancy dinner or an extravagant show," Shin says. "And if they're staying home, what is the most common free activity? And what does it lead to? If sexual activity is on the rise, vasectomy is a sure way of preventing a mistake."
Ross warns that the decision to have a vasectomy should not be made lightly. While the procedure is safe, inexpensive, and relatively minor -- recovery is rapid and takes only a day -- it should be considered permanent.
"Doing a vasectomy is simple and relatively inexpensive. Undoing it is very expensive and is not covered by any insurance," Ross says. ""We have to make sure every patient we talk to knows this is permanent, and they have to be absolutely certain they do not want to father any more children."