For many years, women have been at the centre of family planning, however men have a role to play too when it comes to taking steps to decide on the number of children to have and the spacing between them, which is what family planning is all about.
Family planning prevents about one-third of pregnancy related deaths and some family planning methods prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Therefore, family planning should not be left to women alone.
Family planning methods
Even though family planning methods for men have not changed much over the years, there are still methods available for them. These methods include:
- Use of male condoms: This is a barrier form of contraception that prevents sperm from reaching and fertilising an egg. Apart from preventing pregnancy, condoms can also help in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV, HPV (human papilloma virus), gonorrhoea and syphilis, among other infections that are preventable. It is the main family planning method for most men, however, proper use of condoms is also very important for them to be effective. A condom can seize to be effective if it is not used properly and if it breaks during sex, which will require you and your partner to use another method of birth control to avoid pregnancy such as the pill or another method that best suits your partner.
- Coitus Interruptus (withdrawal): This is basically when a man withdraws the penis from the vagina before ejaculation to prevent pregnancy. However, this method requires self-control and it can be hard for some men. It may not be effective, therefore, using another birth control method is advisable.
- Vasectomy: This is a minor surgical procedure that involves cutting and blocking or sealing vas deferens (the tubes in the scrotum that carry sperm) to cut the supply of sperm to the semen. This method is usually reversible, however, it is more advisable for men who do not want to have children in the future, as it is considered a permanent form of male birth control. If a man who has undergone vasectomy decides to have children, the procedure can be reversed but, in some cases, the reversal may not be effective. In such cases, other techniques such as in vitro fertilization, what is popularly known as (IVF) may be considered.
For most men who undergo vasectomy, they do not experience any noticeable side effects, however, some my experience:
- Presence of blood in the semen,
- Infection of the surgery site,
- Bleeding or blood clot in the scrotum,
- Mild pain or discomfort, and
- Bruising of the scrotum.
How to prepare for vasectomy
First it is important to talk to your partner about it before you can make the decision to have this procedure done after which, you can talk to your doctor and understand more about the procedure, any side effects it may cause, and more information that will help in making an informed decision of whether to go on with it or not.
Some of the things you should do or not do before the procedure include:
- Not taking aspirin, ibuprofen and other such types of medicines before the surgery as they can cause bleeding after the procedure. If you have taken any medicines, supplements or herbal remedies you should let your doctor know,
- Wash your genital area well on the day of the surgery,
- You should also tell your doctor if you have had any surgery in the scrotum, in the past,
- Take with you a tight underwear or an athletic supporter to wear after the surgery to support the scrotum and minimize swelling, and
- Avoid too much movement and pressure on the surgery area after the surgery.
- Try as much as possible to stay off your feet for the first 2 days and rest by lying flat on the sofa or bed,
- Use an ice bag to reduce swelling,
- Wear an athletic supporter or something else that can help protect the scrotum,
- Take medicine to relieve discomfort,
- Wait for 48 hours before bathing,
- Avoid lifting heavy items or exercising for at least 7 days, and
- Find out from your doctor how long you should wait before starting to have sex.
Even after vasectomy, you should use another form of birth control until you are completely sterile, because sperm remain in your semen. You will need to take one or more semen exams to confirm that you have no more sperm in your semen.
A vasectomy does not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, and therefore if you have more than one partner, you must use another form of birth control such as a condom. If you have one partner, you should get testes and find out both your status before deciding on relaying on vasectomy completely for family planning.
Future family planning methods for men
It has taken years to come up with more family planning methods for men and even though most of the ones that have been discovered may not be available to the public or in all parts of the world, they are worth looking at because in the future, they could be even more effective. These methods include:
- Contraceptive injections for men to suppress sperm count. The injection contains the female hormone progestogen and the male hormone testosterone. This method is said to be 96% effective; however, it causes side effects such as acne and mood changes.
- Male contraceptive pill which reduces testosterone levels in the body which interferes with the process of sperm production; causing very few or no sperms during ejaculation.
Before choosing a family planning method, it is crucial to understand the ones available and talk to a health care professional or a sexual health specialist to choose a method that will best suit your needs and those of your partner.