There is no current legal requirement that a man would need his wife’s consent to have a vasectomy procedure done. That is the status quo under the law. The idea of undergoing a medical procedure that will affect the reproductive aspect without informing or discussing this with your partner, however, would be the same as her having her tubes tied and not telling you. While not illegal, it certainly would be considered unethical and disrespectful.
This question clearly extends beyond the law, and some fundamental questions need to be asked and answered.
Therefore, the question is not whether you can, but whether you should, and why you would want to. Before we look at this ethics, let’s get a brief overview of why men undertake this procedure.
Quick Disclaimer: Some of the language in this post has been “dumbed” down, so please excuse it. Search engines often flag blog posts for inappropriate language and topics but they aren’t quite “high-tech” enough to differentiate educational content and inappropriate content.
Five Reasons That Men Get a Vasectomy
Here are some of the top reasons men get a vasectomy:
1. Birth Control
This is an exceptionally effective method to prevent conception and is the most common reason given as the motivation.
The process involves cutting the vas deferens in the “balls”, preventing sperm from entering. So while there are still “fluids”, it does not contain sperm. This method is 99% effective in preventing conception. Condoms are at 84%, and female birth control is between 91% and 94% effective.
2. It Takes The Contraceptive Burden Off Your Female Partner.
Contraceptive medication, although practical, is not without side effects and some of those include nausea, mood changes, decreased libido, and weight gain, to name a few.
Also, the responsibility of ensuring pills are always taken daily can add to an already burdened daily schedule.
Once the vasectomy takes effect after about three months, you can safely engage in sex without the fear of pregnancy, and that can make a massive difference to your love life.
3. A Vasectomy Is A Low-Risk Procedure
The light surgery involved in cutting the tubes is often done under local anesthetic in the urologist’s office and involves a small cut in each “ball” and then stitching closed once complete.
4. The Recovery Time is Fast After A Vasectomy
Because this is not a major surgical procedure, there is no actual downtime, and most men recover and are back to normal function within two or three days.
5. There Is No Risk To Sexual Health
This procedure does not affect the penis in any way, so there is no impact on sexual function, only that your “fluids” will not have sperm in it upon “release”. The body absorbs the sperm produced in the “balls”.
While vasectomies can be reversed successfully in some cases, in most, the result is permanent.
When is it OK to Get a Vasectomy Without Your Wife Knowing?
In a marriage or any committed relationship where having the desired number of children has already happened or mutual agreement that children are not going to be wanted, a vasectomy would be an appropriate course of action.
But, this procedure would have been discussed at some length between partners and probably with your doctor or urologist long before the actual surgery happens so that the decision made is an informed one by both people.
In this case, popping off to have it done without telling your wife may be welcomed by her as almost a ‘surprise’ gift in a way – provided you have both agreed on it and understand the consequences of the procedure.
There have been many cases where once the vasectomy is done and taken effect and the woman can dump the birth control meds, the couple’s sex life takes on a whole new dimension as there is no concern about pregnancy.
Legal and Medical Considerations When Hiding a Vasectomy From Your Wife
Aside from the personal aspect of not informing your wife or partner about your choice to get a vasectomy, there are some ethical and legal medical considerations.
Again, no law requires a man to obtain consent from his spouse or significant other to undergo this procedure. Doctors, however, have a different perspective, and this revolves around medical ethics and self-protection from potential litigation.
The question of patient confidentiality and whether a doctor should insist on spousal knowledge or approval before doing this procedure is debated frequently.
Suppose a doctor insists on a signed consent form from the patient which includes a portion for the signature of the wife where she expresses acknowledgment that he has requested this procedure and the effect it will have. Does this mean then that the wife could veto the procedure by not signing?
If the man, in this case, explicitly expressed that he did not want his wife to know, could this, later on, lead to litigation where the patient claims they were intimidated to disclose this by the doctor?
Most doctors will ensure that there has been sufficient consultation and explanation of the procedure and the consequences over some time to ensure that the patient is fully aware of all the considerations involved.
Does he have the right under patient autonomy to exclude his wife from this decision, and conversely, does the wife have the right to undergo sterilization without his consent?
What’s good for the gander is just as good for the goose!
Related Reading: Why Does My Husband Never Initiate Intimacy?
Should You Get a Vasectomy Without Your Wife Knowing?
We’ve established that there is no legal mandate for a husband to inform his wife should he wish to have a vasectomy, but there are certainly some ethical and moral concerns here, so legally you can, but should you?
Major decisions between couples should be discussed at length, especially ones that concern the family’s future. The issue of children in a marriage should have been discussed and clarified before getting to the point of vasectomy.
If your wife has clearly indicated that she would want children and you then have a secret vasectomy, this can create significant problems in the relationship, especially when it becomes evident that there is something wrong. Even with sex, she cannot conceive.
Eventually, the facts and truth will emerge and hopefully, it happens before she has undergone fertility testing, only to discover that it’s not her and never has been. Putting anyone through that would be supremely malicious and almost evil.
This type of action would be considered ethically corrupt and morally reprehensible, and you may well find yourself on the losing (and very, very costly end) of a divorce settlement.
The solution here is to have a conversation with your wife regardless of the reaction. You should explain the reason(s) why you want to do this, as there are alternatives for her around conception even if you do have a vasectomy.
You can always start by broaching the conversation and seeing what the reaction is, as many times, men will consider doing this as they fear the reaction from their wife f they tell her. While this action may be justified in some instances, but the conversation needs to be had in most cases and may not go the way you expect.
Having a vasectomy without your wife knowing would almost be akin to her getting pregnant by another man and not telling you and would be considered a betrayal of the highest order.
Ask yourself why you don’t want your wife to know and get a second opinion (or a few), and be prepared for the consequences should you elect to proceed.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.