Sterilization, the surgical alteration of a male or female to prevent them from bearing children, is a popular option. While sterilization can be reversed in some cases, it is not always possible, and should be considered permanent. In 1995, 38.6% of all contraceptive users aged 15 to 44 used sterilization, a slight decrease from the 1988 rate of 39%, which was an increase from 34% in 1982. Among married contraceptive users, 49% used sterilization in 1988, up from 42% in 1982 and 23.5% in 1973. Internationally, sterilization is also extremely common, with 70 million women and men sterilized in China alone, according to the Population Council.
Sterilization of women is more popular than sterilization of men, even though the male operation, called vasectomy, is simpler and takes less time than the female operation, called tubal ligation. In 1995, a total of 27.7% U.S. women ages 15 to 44 used sterilization as their birth control method, compared to 10.9% of men.
Tubal ligation, which takes about an hour, calls for sealing the tubes that carry eggs to the uterus. The incision to reach the oviducts can either be made conventionally or by using laparoscopy, a technique which uses fiber optic light sources to enable surgeons to operate without making a large incision. Women continue to ovulate eggs following a tubal ligation, but the ovum is blocked from passage through the fallopian tube and sperm can not reach the ovum to fertilize it. The ovum eventually degenerates.
Vasectomy, which takes about 20 minutes, involves cutting the vas deferens to prevent sperm from reaching the semen. While semen is still produced, it no longer carries spermatozoa. Vasectomy and tubal ligation are considered to be safe procedures with few complications.
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