Vasectomy is simple, safe and cost-effective, but misconceptions and cultural barriers mean uptake is still extremely low.
Globally only 3% of couples use vasectomy as their main contraceptive method, dropping to less than 0.1 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa, while the number of men in England opting for a vasectomy fell from nearly 38,000 vasectomies in 2001 to just over 11,000 in 2015.
Marie Stopes International is trying to change that and on November 18th we are supporting World Vasectomy Day to help start conversations, dispel myths and help men and their families become more informed about their choices.
Marie Stopes International’s Global Medical Director Dr Dhammika Perrera said:
“Too often contraception is seen as a women’s issue, but many men want the opportunity to plan the number of children they have, and many women want to be able to share the responsibility of contraception with their partner.
“Being able to choose if and when to have children has far reaching benefits from improvements to maternal and child health to raising the social and economic well-being of whole families - and vasectomy is a great way for men to get involved. We need a strong focused message that says this is the safest, most cost-effective permanent contraception method on earth.”
Vasectomies are more than 99 per cent effective and today innovations are making it even safer. The no-scalpel technique pioneered by Marie Stopes International has reduced the procedure time to less than 15 minutes, no stitches are needed and there is just a one to two day recovery time.
One of the countries where male engagement in family planning has traditionally been very low is Papua New Guinea. The “wantok” system of extended families has offered a strong social safety net for Papua New Guineans, but the rising cost of living has made large families less feasible.
There are health risks involved too. Papua New Guinea has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the Asia Pacific region, so reducing unmet need for contraception is vital to saving lives.
Since its establishment in 2006, Marie Stopes Papua New Guinea has aimed to be at the forefront of family planning and sexual and reproductive health services with innovative approaches to healthcare delivery. One of these approaches has been encouraging male involvement in family planning.
MS Papua New Guinea has had particular success in attracting vasectomy clients through the use of mass media, including radio, comic books and newspaper articles and the training of male service providers and local male peer educators. The team performed over 1,000 vasectomies in both 2012 and 2013, up from 469 in 2011, and continue to undertake research to better understand what drives men to take up methods and to support their partners in their decisions.
Men’s involvement in family planning is now two-fold – they may take up family planning methods themselves (in the form of condoms and vasectomies), or can support their partners in selecting and using a method.
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