A Second Chance at Parenthood
Like most mothers at the end of a pregnancy, Kelly Alafa breathed a sigh of relief when she gave birth to her son five years ago. But Kelly’s situation was more difficult than most, because the successful pregnancy came after a series of unexplained complications. “We were always trying to get pregnant and we had a really hard time,” Kelly recalled. After their son was born, Kelly and her husband, Roel, decided a vasectomy would spare them the future heartache of more miscarriages. "We didn't want to go through that anymore. We were just so thankful to have our son."
But parenthood became even more of a joy than either Kelly or Roel had anticipated. And as their son headed off to kindergarten, the Alafas wanted to have another child.
“Our experience with our son was so wonderful, we felt it would be worth it to try again,” Kelly said.
Roel was in the military and stationed in Germany when he had had his vasectomy. “I viewed it as permanent,” he said. “When I began to look at a reversal, I knew there were no guarantees.”
A Unique Procedure
The search for information about reversals led the Alafas to the Internet. Roel had nearly decided on a doctor in Florida when Kelly came across an article by Scott & White urologist Erin T. Bird, MD, explaining a unique reversal procedure.
With a modified technique he helped develop while in the Air Force, Dr. Bird uses fibrin glue during the reversal, which reduces operative time and the number of required sutures. Because the procedure requires less time in the operating room, it is considerably less expensive than traditional microsurgery.
“He gave us the statistics, and we were willing to give it a shot,” Roel said of Dr. Bird.
When it comes to vasectomy reversal, Dr. Bird said time is the major determinant of success. The success rate is highest in the early years following a vasectomy — at about 95 percent, when performed five to 10 years after the sterilization. As the number of years between the vasectomy and the reversal increases, the success rate declines.
Kelly Alafa became pregnant shortly after her husband’s reversal procedure. Given her past history, doctors carefully monitored her pregnancy and she delivered a healthy boy in January 2005.
A Second Chance at Parenthood
Like the Alafas, many couples have second thoughts about vasectomies once their children start school.
“Sometimes, they get vasectomies when they are very young,” Dr. Bird said. “For others, a new partner prompts the decision for a reversal.”
That’s what happened for Ricky Garza who had a vasectomy when he was a 23- year-old Navy man.
“I guess I always had it set in my mind that I would just have two kids and looked forward to being financially set when it came time to put them through college,” he said. “But things happen.”
Twelve years after the procedure, the Plano firefighter was divorced and remarried. He and his wife began talking of having children. It was something Garza took under careful consideration.
“It was a tough decision, to think about starting over with diapers and day care. But it was also something we thought we could do.”
When his research helped him zero in on Scott & White, Garza said he was excited to hear about Dr. Bird’s procedure.
“After 12 years, I figured I needed all the help I could get. I know the success rate decreases after 10 years. We didn’t really have our hopes up.”
But now Garza and his wife are also expecting a baby.
Outstanding Success Rate
“Our record is exceedingly good,” said Dr. Bird, who also works closely with Scott & White’s female infertility section when additional reproductive options are necessary.
The vasectomy reversal results at Scott & White are proving better than the published series on the procedure which was featured in the October 2005 Journal of Urology. In the series, Dr. Bird and his Air Force colleagues were first to report the use of fibrin glue in the reversal procedure. The process modifies the traditional technique by reducing the standard number of six to 10 sutures to between three and four. The technique had already been proven in animal models, Dr. Bird explained, but the application in humans was untested.
The technique, which maintains the results of the traditional procedure, is attractive to those who have changed their minds about surgical sterilization.
“For many people, the price of a traditional reversal has been cost-prohibitive,” Dr. Bird said. While most locations charge between $7,000 and $10,000 for a vasectomy reversal, Scott & White’s package remains under $5,000. Decreased operating room time accounts for the savings. But for the results that follow — the anticipation and hope for a pregnancy — there is no price tag.