WORLD VASECTOMY DAY PROMOTES QUICK, SAFE AND REVERSIBLE BIRTH CONTROL METHOD
Today marks the first time the World Vasectomy Day is being held in Kenya, highlighting a subject rarely discussed especially among men.
In any relationship, there comes a time when a couple decides to talk about family planning. Such conversations are usually held if a couple wants to space their children or if they feel the number of children they have is enough.
Some of these conversations are held in a classroom setting, where one party represents the teacher and the other the student. The student in this scenario is a woman in a society that assumes family planning is her responsibility.
Which begs the questions: What happens if the tables are turned and the man opted to take the bullet? Would his actions be viewed as an act of love or would he be the laughing stock of the society?
Some 30 men will undergo free vasectomy at the Kenya National Theatre today free of charge. Five doctors from the US together with a few local doctors will carry out the procedure on men whose families are complete.
Zachary Kagiri, 45, is among those who decided to undergo the operation. He said it will ease the burden his wife has been facing for 10 years. “I made up my mind when my wife told me that she was going to remove the family plan she had (implant). She would always complain that it made her feel dizzy and have mood swings, but all that was music to my ears,” Kagiri said.
Zachary has four children, two of whom are with his wife. He said he was always embarrassed whenever he went out with his wife because everyone knew the family option she was using because of the type of clothes she was wearing.
“I tried picking dresses for her but she would not wear them. She opted for the sleeveless clothes which allowed everyone to see the mark on her hand,” Kagiri added.
As the man of the house, Kagiri researched about the family planning options available to men in the market, and by sheer luck, he met the founder of World Vasectomy Day, who explained to him why a vasectomy would be the best option for him.
“When I met Jonathan and his team in Kangemi and told them about my predicament, they explained to me what a vasectomy is and where I could do it. It is at that point that I kept asking myself why I can’t save my wife,” Kagiri said.
When he told his wife about his decision, she said it was the best news. “It shows that you really love me and I will support you,” she said.
MYTHS ABOUT VASECTOMY
Jonathan Stack, 59, is the founder of the organisation. He came to Kenya in August with the aim of learning about the uptake of family planning options in the country, especially among men.
Jonathan, an Emmy Award-winning and two-time Academy Award-nominated documentary filmmaker, and also the founder of World Vasectomy Day, got his vasectomy five years ago. He has six children.
“Before the procedure I asked a friend of mine what he thought of men who got a vasectomy.” His response made him delay his decision to get a vasectomy. “He said men who got a vasectomy are not alpha men but alpha lite.”
However, when he told his wife about his decision, she responded with a question: “What took you so long?”
Jonathan says it was the only statement she made apart from being happy. Previously, she has used an IUD and hormonal pills.
His organisation has marked three World Vasectomy Days in different countries, the fourth one being celebrated in Kenya today.
“Kenya, like many countries, faces challenges of cultural, religious and economic differences. A lot of men fear getting a vasectomy because of the negative perceptions from peers with no awareness from both national and county governments,” Jonathan said.
He said his procedure, which took about 20 minutes, did not affect his life. Most men think that if one gets a vasectomy, it will affect his sex life and make him less of a man.
“Women put up with a lot in life that we men take for granted. Men should be embarrassed of how wimpy we are. If men had to give birth to babies, there would never be a second child because they cannot tolerate the discomfort women go through,” Jonathan said.
According to a report by the Na- tional Council and Population Development, men rarely get involved in family planning matters because the information being relayed only focuses on women.
The 2014 report, titled Male Involvement in Family Planning and Reproductive Health, also indicated that men fear talking about it.
“The results indicate low male involvement in the matter. This is mainly due to the stigma associated with family planning and maternal and child health clinics being perceived as a woman’s issue,” it read.
The report showed most men support a family planning option chosen by their spouses by providing financial support or transport to and from the clinics.
“The findings further indicate that
condoms are mostly used as an alternative to long-term methods, such as vasectomy. In all the regions, the men and women, both young and old, were in agreement that vasectomy is the least popular family planning method. Few men were willing to go through the minor operation, while their women thought that men who undergo vasectomy may not have an erection any more, or worse still, may become impotent,” the report stated.
WHAT PROCEDURE ENTAILS
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed on men in which the vas deferens (tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the seminal vesicles) are cut and tied.
Once cut, the semen will no longer contain sperms, so conception cannot occur. The testicles continue to produce sperm, but they are absorbed by the body.
Before the procedure is done, the physician will first assess the patient’s general health to identify any potential problems that could occur. The doctor will then explain to the patient what the procedure entails.
After that, the patient will sign a consent form stating he understands the information given to him and gives the doctor permission to perform the operation.
“The procedure only takes 15 minutes. It is done under a local anesthesia,” vasectomy specialist Charles Ochieng’ said.
Dr Ochieng’, who practises at Winam Safe Parenthood Initiative (Wispivas), has conducted more than 1,000 procedures. He said after the procedure, the patient is not allowed to strain himself by doing any hard labour. He is also advised not go have sexual intercourse until after 72 hours or when he is comfortable to reduce any chances of the wound being infected.
Dr Ramon Suarez, who is among the five doctors who will be carrying out the vasectomies at KNT, cautioned men not to opt for a vasectomy if their partner opts for tubal ligation.
“The failure rate of a vasectomy is 2 per cent, and if it fails, the worst that can happen is getting your spouse pregnant. However, if tubal ligation fails, your spouse may die,” Suarez said.
Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure for sterilisation, in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are clamped to prevent eggs from reaching the uterus for implantation.
Both Suarez and Ochieng’ doctors added that vasectomies are reversible but very few men opt out of it.
“Vasectomy is not for people who still want to have children. This is one of the simplest family planning options because the process of dividing the tube is fairly simple compared to the process of reversing it,” Suarez said.
“In Kenya, men are said involved in family panning matters because the government has not been creating awareness about vasectomy. That is why most of them think that it is castration.” Ochieng added.
SEARCH FOR ALTERNATIVES
Women have more than 10 different types of family planning methods while men have two: condoms and vasectomy.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and metabolism shows that scientists are trying to come up with male-equivalent female contraceptives like pills and IUDs.
A hormonal pill for men is in the offing after researchers said that the injectable drug is 96 per cent effective.
Out of the 320 who took part in the study, only four of them got their wives pregnant. The trial, however, ended prematurely after some men complained of developing some side effects to the pill, such as mood swings, muscle pain, acne, among others.
Ochieng’ noted that the roles of men in fertility and family planning should not be overlooked, as it is important in the context of raising contraceptive prevalence and reducing level of fertility.
1. Zachary Kagiri, one of the men who will undergo vasectomy today at the Kenya National Theatre.
2. Jonathan Stack, founder of World Vasectomy Day.