V is for Vasectomy

You’re done having kids. You may have 1, you may have 5 but you’re happy with whatever you have and want no surprise additions to your family. So, what’s your birth control method? Condoms? Er, they aren’t 100% effective and you’re not a big fan of latex. Birth control pills? You have to take them the same time every single day. If you had so much control over your schedule… Ok then what about getting your tubes tied? Oh sure. You’ve had 2 C-sections. If that wasn’t enough and you need to have another invasive procedure. So, what about a vasectomy? Silence. Say what? In India, this word is almost taboo. It’s time now to break the myth and stereotype surrounding this elusive word and shed light on why this might be the least invasive, most effective option for (semi) permanent birth control that your family isn’t choosing yet. November 13, 2015 is World Vasectomy Day. Let’s celebrate by creating awareness and educating ourselves.

World vasectomy day -Parenting resources by ZenParent

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Why any procedure at all?

Birth control or “family planning” as it is eloquently referred to in our country, is a requirement of most modern societies to engage in coitus without the risk of pregnancy. You may be led to believe that condoms, birth control pills, charting of a woman’s menstrual cycle etc. are effective in preventing pregnancy, and about 80% of the time, you may be right. But can you really risk that 20%? It only makes sense to get something more reliable.

What are the options?

Other than external birth control methods which aren’t fool-proof, like condoms and pills, intrauterine devices (IUDs) like Copper –T etc. have been used by women for ages. This consists of a device that is inserted to clamp around the uterus through the vagina. This is India’s preferred birth control method. And it comes with complications – possibility of higher bleeding during periods, infections, and sometimes gruesome complications involving removal or reinsertion and of course, a need to change it every few years. That leaves the tubectomy and the vasectomy. Sterilisation camps in India have a bad repute stemming from the “family planning camps” run in the yesteryear Emergency days in India, where men who’d not fathered even one child were forced to undergo the surgery, often in unhygienic conditions and poorly “rewarded” for it. And then there is the recent case in Chhatisgarh where 83 tubectomies were performed on 53 women in under 2 hours resulting in multiple deaths. India’s history with mass sterilisation has not been good.

Typically, women are advised to go for a tubectomy especially when they deliver via C-section since the doctors are already “in there”. Kind of picking up the eggs at the supermarket since you’re already there to get the milk. A tubectomy is the severing/sealing/clamping of the fallopian tubes to prevent the release of the egg where it could meet the sperm. It’s often invasive (if not done during a C section), has more complications and has more recovery time than its male counterpart – the vasectomy. So why isn’t vasectomy the preferred method? Well, let’s be honest here. Across the world, birth control is considered something of the woman’s business– she’s the one getting pregnant, right? And men are extremely squeamish getting anything near the family jewels and somehow equate it to becoming impotent or losing their “mardaangi”.

Let’s talk more about vasectomy

learn about vasectomy - Parenting resource by zenparent

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Vasectomy is the severing/sealing/clamping of the vas deferens, a little tube that allows sperm to mix with semen during ejaculation. Without sperm, there’s no possibility of fertilization and hence, no pregnancy. The recovery? Ice pack to the area for a day or two. Most men are able to return to work and normal sexual activity in under 2 days. The risks? Like any surgery, there are those minimal risks – internal bleeding, etc but they’re negligible. And pain wise, it is likened to getting a root canal treatment, at worst. In certain cases, vasectomies can be reversed if desired.

The myth

A vasectomy does not alter the external physical appearance of his genitals nor does it prevent a man from having an erection, from masturbating or from having sexual intercourse. It does render him “impotent” in that he cannot father any more children with any partner. It also does not protect from STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases). All it is, is a form of permanent birth control chosen by a man who has fathered all his kids and would like to choose the procedure for himself and his partner to practice safe sex.

The developed world

In developed countries, the number of men getting vasectomies as opposed to women getting tubectomies has steadily risen. It’s time for Indian men to step up and take part of the responsibility in family planning too.

statistics report of vasectomy in developed countries

From the horse’s mouth

I spoke to a couple of men who’ve undergone the procedure to get real. 35-year-old Mayur Saxena*, a journalist, reveals that after his wife birthed twins, one of each gender, there was no reason for them to try to have any more kids because their family was complete. And this was something he wanted to do for his wife and them as a couple. Bharath Natesan*, a 40-year-old software programmer underwent the procedure too. He does reason that while it wasn’t like having an ice cream, it was a fairly routine procedure, well under an hour, from start to finish, and only mild discomfort for 3 days. Thereafter, he could resume all normal activity. And the reason he did it? He wanted to man up. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

*- Names changed at participants’ request.

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