The pre- and poststerilization predictors of poststerilization regret in husbands and wives

J Nerv Ment Dis. 1991 Oct;179(10):602-8. doi: 10.1097/00005053-199110000-00003.


Husbands and wives from 141 tubal sterilization couples and 162 vasectomy couples were interviewed just prior to sterilization and then again 1 and 2 years later. We conducted linear regression analyses to determine the pre- and poststerilization predictors of poststerilization regret in each of the four gender x method groups (tubal husbands, tubal wives, vasectomy husbands, vasectomy wives). We confirmed a number of hypotheses based on the research literature and our own earlier work. Both individual and couple factors contributed to the development of regret, as did both pre- and poststerilization factors. An important finding was the degree to which regret among the nonsterilized respondents (tubal husbands, vasectomy wives) was affected by pre- and poststerilization interaction with their spouses.

PIP: Researchers followed 303 couples who sought and then experienced sexual sterilization through the prepaid health care plan of Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Santa Clara, California for 2 years to determine pre- and poststerilization predictors of poststerilization regret. They examined regret in 4 gender x method groups (tubal husbands, tubal wives, vasectomy husbands, and vasectomy wives) by using a latent variable model of regret (LISREL) and a multiple regression analysis. The study results revealed that, prior to sterilization, predictors of poststerilization regret included respondent motivation for additional children and against sterilization, poor husband-wife communication, and much conflict during decision making, and dominance of the decision by 1 spouse. Indeed these negative effects supported a previous study with similar results which concluded that negative effects contribute considerably to the process of developing regret. These effects fit into 5 behavior fields: reproduction, marital harmony, self image, sexuality, and health. The study also found that the feelings of the spouse who was not sterilized, less motivated and less dominant were particularly sensitive to the feelings of the spouse who had a sterilization, especially when the sterilized spouse regretted having undergone sterilization. Therefore physicians should equally consider the attitude of the spouse who did not seek sterilization and realize that his/her poststerilization regret may be influenced by interactions with the often more motivated, more dominant spouse. Since at least 10% of sterilized couples regret their decision, this study should improve the understanding of this mental health issue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Communication
  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Probability
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Factors
  • Sterilization, Tubal / psychology*
  • United States
  • Vasectomy / psychology*