When we think of birth control, it’s typically in the context of being the responsibility of the person with a uterus. And while we’ve moved on from old school methods of tracking ovulation and the phases of a menstrual cycle, the onus still falls on one party more than the other. Whether it’s taking oral contraceptives like the Pill, or long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) like intrauterine devices (IUDs) or birth control implants, the person who could end up with an unplanned pregnancy often takes the lead when it comes to preventing that from happening.
One major exception to this is the vasectomy, aka “the snip” — a simple surgical procedure that prevents sperm from leaving a penis. People opt to get vasectomies for a variety of reasons, including financial ones. But exactly how much does a vasectomy cost? Is this something insurance covers? And how does the cost of a vasectomy compare to other contraceptive options, like IUDs or tubal litigation (getting your tubes tied)? Here’s what to know.
What is a vasectomy?
According to the Mayo Clinic, a vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure that cuts or blocks the supply of a person’s sperm to their semen. After a vasectomy, a person with a penis will still ejaculate, but their semen will be sperm-free. The procedure is considered low-risk, and is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
Vasectomies are typically outpatient procedures and take place under local anesthesia. And while vasectomies are technically reversible, they’re still considered “permanent” contraception. This is because the initial vasectomy procedure takes around 20 minutes, but a vasectomy reversal can take four to six hours, and is far more complicated, according to Penn Medicine.
How much does a vasectomy cost?
The cost of a vasectomy depends on several factors, including the type and where the procedure takes place. But, according to Planned Parenthood, it usually costs between $0 and $1,000. There are two types of vasectomies: one involving an incision and another performed without a scalpel or any cutting. The noninvasive method tends to have a lower risk of infection and other complications and generally takes less time to heal. You can contact a clinic or urologist directly to determine what (if any) differences in cost exist between the two.
If you’re unable to afford a vasectomy (with or without health insurance), ask your health care provider about sliding-scale payment options, which are sometimes available.
What is the cost of a reverse vasectomy?
Like traditional vasectomies, reverse vasectomies can vary significantly in cost depending on many factors: anesthesia, the facility, the surgeon, geographic region, and more. Per board-certified urologist Dr. Anand Shridharani, a ballpark range is $6,000 to $25,000. However, some sources cite the higher end of that spectrum, topping out around $70,000.
Hoping to conceive and wondering how likely it is to get pregnant after a reverse vasectomy? According to Arizona Urology, success rates in producing sperm in your ejaculate again are 95 percent if you had your vasectomy less than 10 years ago. However, if you wait more than 15 years, that percentage drops to somewhere in the 30 to 70 percent range.
Does insurance pay for a vasectomy?
Another major factor when it comes to the cost of a vasectomy is health insurance. Many health insurance plans — including Medicaid and other governmental programs — offer either free or low-cost vasectomies, Planned Parenthood notes. And while health insurance plans almost always offer some level of coverage for vasectomies, it’s important to look into the specifics. For instance, some plans may fully cover or have a low co-pay for the procedure, but others only kick in if the person has already met their deductible. If they haven’t, they could end up paying out-of-pocket for at least some of it.
How does the cost of a vasectomy compare to getting your tubes tied or IUD?
A vasectomy may sound expensive compared to a few packs of condoms, but overall, it’s one of the most cost-effective birth control options available, when you consider how much money is being saved on other forms of short-term contraception, like condoms, pills, and other methods.
According to Planned Parenthood, without health insurance coverage, getting one IUD is comparable in price to a vasectomy, coming in at between $0 and $1,300. But when you factor in that IUDs must be replaced every seven to 12 years, that could mean multiple IUDs and procedures — and an increase in cost.
But when you compare a vasectomy to a tubal litigation (aka “getting your tubes tied”), the difference is stark. First, vasectomies are six times less expensive than tubal litigations, Planned Parenthood notes. Second, as Dr. Alex Pastuszak, a urologist and a fertility expert at University of Utah Health, notes, a vasectomy is a safer and cheaper option compared to tubal ligation.
“Tubal ligation requires general anesthetic or strong regional, so the anesthesia is already more significant, and the side effects from that can be more significant than that for a vasectomy,” Pastuszak explains. “And then just in terms of pregnancy itself, while tubal ligation is just as effective as [a] vasectomy — more than 99 percent [effective] — you can still risk an ectopic pregnancy or incomplete closure of fallopian tube which results in pregnancy.”
How old do you have to be to get a vasectomy?
To get a vasectomy, you must be the legal age of consent, which varies based on the state but is usually between 16 to 18 years old. Some vasectomy specialists discourage patients younger than 30 or 35 from getting this procedure and may even refuse to perform the operation.
Where does sperm go after a vasectomy?
After a vasectomy, sperm does not leave the body. This doesn’t mean the person who gets a vasectomy no longer produces sperm; it’s just not ejaculated from the penis. While sperm is maturing, the body stores it in a tightly coiled tube known as the epididymis. Once a person has a vasectomy, the sperm can no longer move out of that tube into the vas deferens (where it would then swim along in search of an egg to fertilize). Are you now wondering where the sperm goes? Well, it remains in the body, where the lining of the epididymis eventually absorbs it. A person who’s had a vasectomy will still be able to produce semen and ejaculate — but when a person with a vasectomy ejaculates, there won’t be any sperm in the semen.
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