Mike and Joyce Watson say they have their hands full these days. For the San Jose couple, conceiving their two children meant rolling back the clock more than a dozen years. They say that is the amount of time that had passed since he had undergone a vasectomy.
"When it was first explained to me, when I first had the vasectomy, it was sterilization, which meant it was permanent," said Mike Watson.
The Watson's approached San Francisco urologist, Dr. Paul Turek, who recommended surgery to reverse the vasectomy.
He says reversals can be delicate, since the original procedure can sometimes cause blockages in the reproductive system that also have to be corrected.
But, Turek says a recent study completed at his clinic showed encouraging outcomes, even in older vasectomies.
*** "We looked at the surrogate of pregnancy, which is basically the patency rate, or the ability to get sperm from the ejacualte," said Turek.
The study, presented to the American Urological Association earlier this year, looked at 343 cases. It found a 65 percent success rate after reversing older vasectomies, defined as 16 years or longer after the original surgery. In more recent vasectomies, 88 percent of the men were able to produce healthy sperm.
"There really isn't a difference between the quality of sperm," said Turek. "
The results could influence the decision making process for thousands of couples trying to conceive by helping them weigh the tradeoffs between a vasectomy that has been surgically reversed and the alternative, in vitro fertilization (IVF).
"It really depends a lot on what their desires are," said Turek.
Dr. James Smith is the head of male fertility at UCSF. He says some older couples might benefit from IVF to help stimulate the woman's egg production. The male partner's sperm is then removed surgically, by-passing the vasectomy.
For younger couples, however, Smith says a reversal is often a more affordable option, "A vasectomy reversal costs between $6,000-$10,000, an IVF cycle costs about $10,000-$12,000 for one month and the surgical procedure is about $3,000-$5,000 to get sperm out, so the cost difference can be pretty significant."
In the San Jose couple's case, they were able to become pregnant two months after the reversal surgery.
Joyce Watson added that the surgery brought "a lot of joy and excitement."
Turek says there can be short term side effects from the reversal procedure for the first several months, including reactions from the body's immune system that can temporarily reduce sperm count.
Written and produced by Tim Didion