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Young, childless, and snipped

  • Story Highlights
  • Health agency: One in six men over age 35 had a vasectomy by 2006
  • Doctor says he's had men as young as 21 seeking the operation
  • Surgeon: I tell patients it's like buying a gun-- there's a waiting period
  • 90 percent reversal success rate with in 10 years after vasectomy
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By Michelle Goodman
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(LifeWire) -- Although he wasn't the neighborhood Lothario, and he didn't have a significant other, Jason Eskridge opted to have a vasectomy when he was 27.

Young, childless, and snipped

"I did not want to raise children or be a parent due to some sort of mistaken encounter," explains the video engineer from San Jose, California, who is now 34 and lives with his girlfriend of three years.

It's not that Eskridge doesn't like kids; he has eight nieces and nephews whom he adores. He just likes his freedom more, especially the ability to travel throughout the U.S. and Europe, honing his photography chops.

"I've quit steady, solid jobs to work for next to nothing to live somewhere else in the country," Eskridge says. "Not having kids and not having to worry about finding a good city with a good school system certainly does free me to do that."

Eskridge isn't alone in downplaying the act of reproduction. In a 2007 Pew Research Center telephone survey of 2,000 U.S. men and women, only 41 percent said children are "very important to a successful marriage." In 1990, that figure was 65 percent.

Better sterile than sorry

According to the National Institutes of Health, by 2006 one in six U.S. men over age 35 has had a vasectomy, with about half a million getting snipped each year. And while men in their late 30s or 40s are often the ones who opt for the surgery, Dr. Dale McClure, director of Male Infertility at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, says he sees "a fair number of people under 35" who have undergone the procedure.

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"I'm actually seeing more people than I have in the past that are younger that had a vasectomy at age 21 or 22," says McClure.

That doesn't mean doctors are doling out vasectomies like condoms at a free health clinic.

"I jokingly tell patients it's like buying a gun in Chicago," says Dr. Lawrence Ross, professor of urology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "You can go look at the gun but you can't buy it right away."

That's because, Ross says, "there's no 100 percent guarantee in any case that we can reverse it." Within 10 years of having a vasectomy, there's a 90 to 95 percent success rate for reversal surgery. Beyond that, the success rate drops to 75 to 80 percent.

Given those stats, it's best to consider a vasectomy "a permanent form of sterilization," Ross says. "I will always tell young men that in my 38 years of practice, I've seen many men change their minds."

Second -- and third -- thoughts

McClure says he spends most of his time "putting vasectomies back together," performing more than 2,000 reversals since 1975.

"Over the last several years, it appears that more males under the age of 25 who've never had children and who had a vasectomy are coming in [for a reversal] because they've found a new partner and they want to have children," says McClure.

And sometimes there's more than one change of heart.

"Probably several times per year," the doctor says, "I have people come in who've done the reversal and had a couple kids and want the vasectomy again."

That can end up being an expensive form of birth control: Fees for a vasectomy range from several hundred dollars to $1,000, although it's often covered in part by insurance. Not so for reversals -- McClure charges $6,000, and the cost can run as high as $15,000.

Saving money was one incentive for Eskridge, whose insurance covered $800 of the cost of the procedure. The decision to have a vasectomy was drama-free. "It was something that I'd thought about for years," he says. "It wasn't like the idea came to me three months beforehand."

'So what does your girlfriend think?'

Eskridge's vasectomy wasn't a surprise to girlfriend Sonya Carr, 27, a sales accounts manager. The two were friends for several years before dating, so she knew all about his decision.

"I plan to spend the rest of my life with him, so before I moved in, I did have to consider that I was basically giving up the option of having children," Carr says. "I was already on the fence about having kids, and since realizing I either had to find a new guy or live without them, I've only become more convinced it was the right choice for me, too."

Gloria Mashayekhi, 29, from Houston, can relate. She and husband Dan Mitten, a security supervisor, weren't interested in raising children. But Mashayekhi's birth control pills were sending her blood pressure through the roof.

"I had to go off the birth control in January and he got the vasectomy in February," says Mashayekhi, an executive assistant. "I think the month of no sex was enough of an initiative to quickly find an alternative."

Mitten spent his 30th birthday getting a vasectomy.

Staying snipped

Chuck Rathmann, 42, had a vasectomy during his first marriage at age 33 and then warmed up to the idea of starting a family when he remarried at 38. But rather than undergo reversal surgery, he and his current wife adopted a daughter.

"Frankly, I don't think there is anything really special about my genetic material," says the marketing analyst from Delafield, Wisconsin.

Seven years after his decision, Eskridge admits to only one regret:

"My [best friend] from high school, she's going to get inseminated," he says. "She's a lesbian and she wants to have kids and she hasn't found a partner. I certainly would have liked to have donated [sperm] for her."

LifeWire provides original and syndicated content to Web publishers. Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer and author of "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube."

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