Vasectomy Alternatives: Temporary vs. Permanent Methods

You and your partner have discussed it at length and have decided that your family is complete — no more babies! So, what are your best birth control options?

When you want to be sexually active, but don’t want children, a vasectomy is a common birth control method that comes to people’s minds. However, this is not the only option — there are plenty of vasectomy alternatives to consider when deciding which birth control method is right for you and your partner. 

Here are some of the main types of birth control, both temporary and permanent, and the pros and cons of each method.

Temporary Birth Control Methods

If you are looking for vasectomy alternatives because you aren’t ready to make a permanent decision regarding your future family, then don’t worry. Luckily, there are many temporary options to choose from, such as barrier methods, hormone methods, and implantable devices.

Types of Temporary Birth Control

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods of birth control create a physical barrier that prevents sperm from entering the uterus. There are many types of barrier methods to choose from including condoms, spermicide, diaphragms, and cervical caps. Unlike other types of birth control, this method is only used when you are actively having sex. Therefore, if you are relying on this birth control method, it is important to plan ahead and use it correctly every time you’re sexually active.

Hormone Methods

A woman’s body is responsible for producing and maintaining hormones to aid ovulation and pregnancy. Common hormone methods include daily pills, vaginal rings, and skin patches. These contraceptives contain progestin or a combination of progestin and estrogen that disrupt a woman’s normal hormone balance. Depending on which hormonal method you choose, the contraceptive will either suppress ovulation, thicken cervical mucus to hinder the passage of sperm, or thin the uterus lining to prevent the fertilized egg from implanting. 

Implantable Devices

A birth control implant is a small, thin rod that releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy. The implant is about the size of a matchstick and is inserted under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. After the implant is inserted, the woman is protected from pregnancy for up to five years. As a result, this birth control method is ideal for someone who doesn’t want to worry about constantly having barrier methods on hand or remembering to take a pill. 

Pros of Temporary Birth Control

Depending on your situation, the temporary nature of these birth control methods can be considered a pro or a con. You might be considering vasectomy alternatives, but how certain are you that you don’t ever want any more children? If you aren’t one hundred percent confident in your answer, then a temporary method of birth control may be the best option for you, as it leaves you with room to change your mind in the future.

Cons of Temporary Birth Control

Cons vary depending on the specific temporary method that you choose. Pills can be difficult to remember to take daily, whereas other hormone methods or implantable devices can result in side effects such as irregular periods, nausea, and mood swings. When using barrier methods, there is also a lack of spontaneity, which many people consider to be a con.

Most importantly, each of the temporary birth control methods has a small potential to fail, and none of these vasectomy alternatives have a success rate as high as a vasectomy itself. Therefore, when couples are sure they do not want to add to their family, they typically opt for more permanent and reliable methods of birth control.

Permanent Birth Control Methods

The two choices for more permanent birth control are vasectomy, which is male sterilization, and tubal ligation, which is female sterilization. Before you and your spouse do the coin toss to decide who gets “snipped,” there are several factors to consider when comparing the two procedures.

Types of Permanent Birth Control

Vasectomy

A vasectomy is a simple surgery where the small tubes in a male’s scrotum that carry sperm are cut or blocked off. This prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching the semen during ejaculation. A vasectomy doesn’t change the way having an orgasm or ejaculating feels, but it does prevent pregnancy better than any other method of birth control. 

Related: 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before a Vasectomy 

Tubal Ligation

During a tubal ligation, a woman’s fallopian tubes are cut, tied, or blocked. Fallopian tubes connect each of a woman’s ovaries to the uterus and are responsible for transporting unfertilized eggs. Therefore, tubal ligation prevents pregnancy by blocking an egg from traveling through the fallopian tubes, as well as stopping sperm from traveling up the fallopian tubes to the egg. 

Things to Consider

Which is the safer procedure?

A vasectomy procedure is very quick — it takes about 15 minutes and the patient can go home the same day. Vasectomies are performed while the patient is under local anesthesia at a doctor’s office, whereas a tubal ligation requires a general anesthetic and a longer hospital visit. Although both procedures are relatively safe and few people have complications, a vasectomy is an easier procedure and has fewer risks than tubal ligation.

Which is less expensive?

The average cost of a tubal ligation is $2,500, while the average cost of a vasectomy is about $800. Not only is a vasectomy the cheaper option, but it is also safer, less invasive, and requires less recovery time. To all the men who were hoping to hear that tubal ligation was the better option so their ladies could take one for the team, we apologize for this news. 

Your Urology Specialist Can Help

At the end of the day, there is no “right” answer when deciding which birth control method is the best choice for you and your partner. Each couple has a unique set of circumstances and will need to choose the birth control that is best for their family and their situation.

If you are looking into vasectomy alternatives, a fact-finding mission about all of the birth control options is a great place to start. Weigh the pros and cons of each method, and discuss your goals and priorities regarding family planning with your partner.

Once you have made your decision, or if you would like to further discuss your options, contact the Urology Specialists of the Carolinas to schedule an appointment.

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This content was originally published in November 2014 and was refreshed in January 2021.