CONTACT: STEPHEN PRADARELLI
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0007; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Aug. 4, 2000
UI study shows most vasectomy patients are comfortable with decision
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Most men seeking a vasectomy undergo sterilization without
hesitation although many are unaware that the procedure may be reversible.
And few men arrive at the decision on their own. Typically they've consulted
with a wife, girlfriend or partner before committing to the procedure.
Those are some of the findings of a study, "The Psychological Correlates
of Vasectomy," by John S. Westefeld, a professor in the University of
Iowa College of Education's Division of Psychology and Quantitative Foundations,
and Dr. Jay Sandlow, an associate professor in the UI College of Medicine's
department of urology. The pair was assisted by Michael R. Maples, a psychology
intern at Kansas State University, and Karen Scheel, a former assistant professor
in counseling psychology at the University of Oklahoma who is now at the University
of Akron in Ohio.
Westefeld will present the findings next week at the annual meeting of the
American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. and the study has been
accepted for publication in Fertility and Sterility, a leading infertility
Vasectomy is the most common form of male contraception used in the United
The procedure, which can be performed on an outpatient basis using local
anesthesia, is intended to interrupt the vas deferens -- or sperm duct --
so sperm can no longer exit during an ejaculation.
Conventional vasectomy is performed through an incision made in the scrotum.
The vas is then found, tied with suture or blocked with permanent clips, cut
Unlike previous research about the psychological impact of vasectomies --
much of which dates from the 1960s and 1970s -- Westefeld's and Sandlow's
study examines the thoughts and feelings of men leading up to the procedure.
The study involved 74 vasectomy patients ages 22 to 62 in the University
of Iowa Hospital's Male Fertility Clinic, of which Sandlow is director. Ninety-two
percent of the men were white, 93 percent were married and 91 percent had
two or more children. The subjects responded to questions on several psychology
inventories, answered open-ended questions and filled out a questionnaire
designed by Westefeld and Sandlow to gather demographic information about
About 50 percent of the men indicated they had been thinking about having
a vasectomy for a year or less before the procedure. Asked on a scale of 1
(extremely uncertain) to 10 (completely certain) how sure they were that having
a vasectomy had been the right decision, 85 percent scored 8 or higher, indicating
a high level of certainty. Also, most men indicated they underwent the procedure
because they didn't want additional children and they felt a vasectomy was
preferable to other forms of birth control.
Other findings of the study:
-- 91 percent of the men indicated that their wife, girlfriend or partner
had been involved in the decision to have a vasectomy; 62 percent said both
they and their partner had been equally in favor of the decision.
-- Asked how certain their partner had been that a vasectomy was the right
decision, more than 90 percent responded 8 (very certain) or higher on the
-- Using a scale ranging from 1 (for no anxiety) to 10 (the highest possible
anxiety level), 20 percent of the men indicated 5 and 8 percent indicated
8. Most of the anxiety stemmed from concerns about possible pain and "fear
of the unknown."
Westefeld and Sandlow said they were surprised to find that not all the
men knew going into the surgery that vasectomies may be reversible. Eleven
subjects believed vasectomies are definitely not reversible, and 22 said they
definitely are reversible. The remaining subjects were either unsure or their
answer was qualified in some way.
The fact is that while the procedure is reversible in some cases, it typically
leads to permanent sterilization and is recommended for men who are certain
they no longer wish to bear children.
More information about vasectomies and other male reproductive issues can
be found at the Web site of the University of Iowa Male Fertility Clinic at