Tired of seeing their women suffer from the many side-effects of birth control methods, some men are taking the bold step. And they’re smiling all the way, writes SIMON ANYONA
Mention the word vasectomy and what comes to mind is sterility and bruised sex drive. But these are just misconceptions. According to Dr Doug Stein, a surgeon, vasectomy boosts the sex drive.
“As a matter of fact, vasectomy has been known to enhance a man’s sexual pleasure and a woman’s libido because both parties no longer have to worry about unwanted pregnancies and the side effects that come with female birth control methods,” he says.
If that is the case, no wonder many men are increasingly warming up to the idea.
Robert Simuyu, 41, who has six children, is one such man.
“My wife had tried all the family planning methods and her body reacted to all of them. When she put an implant she bled so much and had to remove it. The pills made her add weight and the injections made her libido to go down. We were forced to go the natural way but the problem was that our timing was always wrong. That is why I decided to go for a vasectomy so that we sort this issue once and for all,” says Robert.
Jolted to action
Dr Charles Ochieng’, a father of two, has also undergone the procedure. He was jolted to action in 2008 when he saw the pain and anguish his wife was going through while using birth control pills.
“I am a happy man and my wife is an even happier woman. We are now enjoying our marriage because we have peace of mind,” he says.
He agrees that there are many misconceptions about the procedure, but as a medic, he knows better.
“Some say it will make the man sterile, that it is painful or a dangerous surgical procedure. But these are just myths,” says Dr Ochieng’’, who is a reproductive health specialist in Kisumu.
According to him, vasectomy is cheaper than most female related birth control methods and the procedure has minimal side effects.
“It is a simple and painless procedure and you do not even notice any difference when it has been done. It is safer and cheaper than tubal litigation, which is its equivalent for women. It gave me a chance to participate in planning for our family,” he adds.
Dr Ochieng’ clarifies that vasectomy does not interfere with a man’s sexual performance in any way, contrary to popular belief.
It only prevents the flow of sperm to mix with semen in preparation for ejaculation.
“To me, a large family is what affects a man’s libido. Such a man is frustrated because he may not be able to feed the many mouths,” he says.
The doctor agrees that like him, many men are slowly seeing the light.
“Surprisingly, the level of interest on vasectomy is high but the lack of information makes many people rely on falsehoods,” he says.
But how do women take this idea?
Giselle Wairimu prefers her man not to go for it. “I would rather deal with the semi-permanent birth control methods regardless of the consequences than subject my husband to a vasectomy. What if we decide at some point we want more children? What would we do then if he has already taken the cut?” she asks with doubt.
Salome Mulaa has no qualms about it. She says there should be more awareness creation on the procedure to clear the air. “I would not force my husband to go for it, but if he agreed by his own free will I would be delighted because it would save me a lot of trouble. My body reacts to almost every birth control method.”
Alice Chai is more blunt: “Why should a man be made permanently sterile while there are many other semi-permanent birth control methods such as pills and coil that a woman can use? I would not go that way,” she says with finality.
Myths aside, what is vasectomy? Dr Illias Ali, a professor of surgery, says it is the surgical cutting of the vas deference gland through which sperms travel to the prostate gland to mix with semen in preparation for ejaculation.
Cutting of the vas deference prevents the flow of sperm in the testicles. Production of sperms continues on a normal basis only that they are re-absorbed into the body. Dr Doug Stein explains what happens during the procedure.
The current practice — No Scalpel Vasectomy — is quick and painless and does not involve cutting of the scrotum.
Here, doctors access the vas deference glands through a small incision made on the scrotum after which they are cut and sealed on both sides.
It is painless, performed under local anaesthesia (no syringes) and takes ten to 15 minutes.
Anaesthesia is administered using a special spraying tool therefore it is totally painless.
Reversibility is also a big factor. Having a vasectomy should always be viewed as a permanent measure. However, it is possible to have a vasectomy reversed in an operation called a vasovastostomy. This operation is more complex than the original vasectomy and takes longer. It often needs to be done under general anaesthetic.
Various statistics are given for the proportion of reversals that are successful — success is most often achieved within five years of the original vasectomy.
Following micro-surgery to reverse a vasectomy, there is gradual recovery of sperm count in most men, but the level of recovery is variable. Factors such as age and time passed since vasectomy are factors that may influence the level of recovery.