Report Documents Three Decades of Surgical Sterilization Trends

For Release: Friday, June 26, 1998

Contact: NCHS Press Office, (301) 458-4800


Surgical Sterilization in the United States: Prevalence and Characteristics, 1965-95. (PHS) 98-1996. 40 pp. GPO stock number and price forthcoming [PDF – 289 KB]

The National Center for Health Statistics has released a new report on surgical sterilization in the United States over the past three decades. The report uses data from the National Survey of Family Growth, which interviewed women of childbearing age (15-44 years), and includes the following findings:

  • Between 1965 and 1988, the prevalence of surgical sterilization rose dramatically among married women 15-44 years of age in the United States, from 16 to 42 percent. In 1995, the prevalence remained about the same at 41 percent.
  • Among ever-married women aged 15-44 years in 1995, 41 percent were surgically sterile (15.3 million women), 26 percent reported having a tubal ligation, 7 percent had a hysterectomy, and 12 percent were currently living with a husband or partner who had a vasectomy.
  • Age, parity, religious affiliation, and education continued to be strongly associated with overall surgical sterilization rates. Marital status, race and Hispanic origin, and socioeconomic factors such as education and income were also strongly associated with particular types of sterilizing operations.
  • Since 1982, tubal ligation has become more common than vasectomy, occurring one-and-a-half to two times as often among currently married and ever-married women aged 15-44 years and their partners. Among married women in 1995, 24 percent reported a tubal ligation, compared with 15 percent reporting that their husbands had a vasectomy. In earlier years, based on data collected in 1965 and 1973, tubal ligation and vasectomy were equally common among these women and their partners.
  • The profile of ever-married women who have had a tubal ligation or whose partners have had a vasectomy has changed over time. For example, recent data indicate an increasing proportion of tubal ligations are now reported among older women, those with education beyond high school, or those who have had fewer (one or two) children.
  • Nearly 25 percent of women with an unreversed tubal ligation in 1995 expressed a desire for reversal of the operation, on the part of herself, her husband or partner, or both. About 11 percent of married or cohabiting women whose partner had a vasectomy reported some desire for reversal. Desire for tubal ligation reversal was more frequently reported by younger women, Hispanic women, and women with lower levels of education and income.