Although a man is fertile for most of his life, a healthy woman may be able to get preg­nant until the age of 50 to 51 (Pollack, Carignan, & Jacobstein, 2004). Women who no longer wish to have children but are still fertile may look for long-term protection from pregnancy. Sterilization has been found to be one of the safest and most effective meth­ods of contraception (Pollack, Carignan, & Jacobstein, 2004). In 1995, there were 693,000 tubal sterilizations and 494,000 vasectomies (Pollack, Carignan,& Jacobstein, 2004; see Figure 13.2 for more information about ethnicity and sterilization statistics).

The primary difference between sterilization and other methods of contraception is that sterilization is usually irreversible and requires surgery. Although some people have been able to have their sterilizations reversed, this can be very expensive and time con­suming. The majority of people who request sterilization reversals do so because they have remarried and desire children with their new partners.