LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA.com) — For hundreds of thousands of men who undergo vasectomies each year, the outpatient procedure is a permanent method of birth control – or is it?
Laguna Beach resident Greg Carpenter found himself holding his first child at the age of 53 – 10 years after having a vasectomy.
“It was incredible. She came out, I was in the delivery room, she was waxy and cried and, you know, a little gooey looking, but you immediately kind of take to her,” Greg said.
Ten years ago, his life was very different – he was newly divorced and at the time, children weren’t in his future. So he decided to have a vasectomy.
“I didn’t have any plans to have kids so I thought I might as well do that. I guess safety precaution, I don’t know,” he said.
That plan went by the wayside when he met Molly seven years later.
“You can meet people who just want to have a kid and you happen to be there, or you meet somebody that really wants to be with you,” Greg said.
Molly, who was 13 years his junior, already has a son from a previous relationship and didn’t think about more kids until her doctor warned her that her biological clock was ticking.
“Once you realize you have a certain period of time, it’s, like, very important, it’s like, OK, if we’re going to do this, we need to do this,” she said.
Together they made the decision to reverse his vasectomy.
“We had a very solid base in the relationship and so it was just a natural extension to have a kid,” Greg said.
“It’s asking a lot of both of us, but I think it was an easy decision once we kind of talked through all of it,” Molly said.
Three weeks later the procedure was scheduled, to be performed by Dr. Philip Werthman, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine and Vasectomy Removal in Los Angeles.
Dr. Werthman says more and more men are reversing their vasectomies.
“I know even in the last six months, I can see that the calls that we’re getting and the inquiries that we’re getting are probably two or three times higher than what they were three or four years ago,” he said.
Dr. Werthman does both vasectomies and reversals but within the last couple of years, he says he’s been performing five times more reversals than vasectomies – and a majority of his patients have situations similar to Greg and Molly.
“For the most part, it’s older men coming in with younger wives,” he said.
Reversing a vasectomy is an outpatient procedure, but Dr. Werthman says it’s very delicate because the vas – the sperm duct that must be reconnected – is only about a third of a millimeter wide.
“So to do this accurately, you really need an operating microscope to magnify, special equipment, special sutures. The sutures that we use are about half the thickness of a hair,” Dr. Werthman said.
Dr. Werthman says almost any man who has had a vasectomy can get it reversed, and age is not a factor. The doctor has even done a reversal on an 80-year-old man whose original vasectomy was done in 1945.
Most couples end up conceiving within the first year after the procedure. Greg and Molly were pregnant within six weeks.
And almost a year to the date from the reversal – little Lana was born.
“To pick her up and see little parts of you in there and parts of Molly – it’s so great,” Greg said.
With a 99 percent success rate, Dr. Werthman’s office walls are lined with baby pictures – the results of thousands of vasectomy reversals.
“For people who want to avoid going through in vitro and putting their wives through the shots and that process, then this is a very, very good and very successful alternative,” Dr. Werthman said.
Now engaged, Greg and Molly say they couldn’t be happier with their decision to start a family.
“I might have been unsure a few years ago, but I’m not unsure at all now,” Greg said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
It’s estimated that about 500,000 men request vasectomies each year and about 5 percent of them will change their minds.