June 19, 2002 -- Contrary to what many have thought, most women don't regret their decision to go through with sterilization. A new survey shows that only a small percentage of women regret having their "tubes tied" or their husband's vasectomy.
Researchers say the likelihood of regret is one of the most commonly discussed issues in counseling couples about these permanent contraceptive methods. But their study found that only about 7% of women experienced regret within five years after their own sterilization, called tubal ligation. And only about 6% of women regretted their husband's vasectomy.
But when there was conflict between the women and their husbands, there was also more likely to be regret. In fact, women who reported substantial conflict with their husbands before the man's vasectomy were more than 25 times as likely to request that the procedure be reversed.
In addition, women were three times more likely to express regret their decision about a tubal ligation if the couple had conflict before the procedure. These women were also five times more likely to request reversal as those without conflict. Unfortunately, the researchers did not determine if the conflict was over the sterilization or something else.
"This study is reassuring in that a comparatively small number of the women in the study experienced regret after either they or their husbands underwent a voluntary sterilization procedure," says Duane Alexander, MD, director of National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which funded the study, in a news release. "However, the finding also underscores the importance of the healthcare professional in providing thorough counseling for those considering sterilization as a means of family planning."
The report appears in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Surgical sterilization, such as tubal ligation for women (also known as having the "tubes tied") and vasectomy for men, is the most popular method of contraception in the world. About 4 million men and 10 million women in the U.S. have been sterilized.
Tubal ligation is a procedure in which a woman's fallopian tubes (the tubes that connect the uterus and ovaries) are sealed to prevent sperm from reaching the egg released by the ovary. In a vasectomy, the tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the small sacs where semen is stored are cut, preventing the semen from carrying sperm. Both procedures are considered permanent, although they may sometimes be reversed.
For the study, researchers from the CDC analyzed information from a study that followed women ages 18 to 44 who had a tubal sterilization between 1985 and 1987. The study collected data on more than 3,600 sterilized women and 525 other women whose husbands had vasectomies.
Although earlier studies have looked at the issue of regret after sterilization, researchers say this is the first to include women whose husbands had vasectomies and compare their experiences to women who were sterilized.