Both vasectomy and tubal ligation are permanent, surgical methods of avoiding pregnancy by rendering the patient who undergoes the procedure unable to either impregnate a woman or become pregnant. Since both procedures carry health risks and are generally considered to be irreversible, couples deciding between vasectomy and tubal ligation should take several factors into consideration before making their decision. These considerations include the overall health of both partners, available medical coverage, as well as each partner's personal preferences and concerns.
Tubal ligation is a contraceptive or sterilization procedure performed on women. The process involves the cutting and blocking of a woman's fallopian tubes. This prevents a woman's eggs from meeting and being fertilized by sperm. While tubal ligation can be performed laparoscopically, using a small incision or incisions, it is still an invasive, surgical procedure performed in a hospital setting, requiring either general or regional anesthesia. Recovery time varies by patient, though typically the larger the incision, the longer the time it will take to heal from the surgery.
Vasectomy, on the other hand, is a form of male sterilization in which the tubes that carry sperm are cut so that sperm is not ejaculated during intercourse. The operation typically takes about a half an hour to perform under local anesthetic. Many men can return to work within a day of the surgery, though they may experience some discomfort for about a week. As a general rule, a vasectomy is less expensive than a tubal ligation.
One factor to consider when deciding between vasectomy and tubal ligation is the reason for sterilization. If a woman has been cautioned against future pregnancies because of health problems, she may want to consider a tubal ligation so that, if her current relationship ends, she remains protected from pregnancy caused by a future partner. Similarly, if a man is concerned about passing on a genetic disorder to his current or future partners, a vasectomy may be in his best interest. Individuals who are not monogamous may likewise wish to have themselves sterilized if they wish to ensure that they do not become pregnant or cause a pregnancy.
Health factors for both parties should also be considered. While female sterilization techniques have improved over the years, there is still a significant difference in risk between vasectomy and tubal ligation. If a monogamous couple simply wants to avoid or discontinue having children, vasectomy may be the least expensive and disruptive option, unless a man suffers from health problems that could make even minor surgery dangerous.