To hell with coitus interruptus, vasectomy shall set you free!

Hospital doctor with digital Tablet talks to male patient Photo: Courtesy

It is the one word that makes men discover that they never had balls in the first place.

Vasectomy frightens even the tough as nails KDF warriors who eat ballast for breakfast before casually hoisting their rifles to take the battle to al-Shabaab militia in Somalia. 

But during the World Vasectomy Day last week, over 50 brave men went through vasectomy, saying theirs was “an act of love to unchain their spouses from the yoke of harmful contraceptives”.

This in a country where family planning is largely designed for women with an  average uptake of 58 per cent while vasectomy, which is men oriented, gets a miserable one per cent uptake.

Vasectomy specialist Dr. Charles Ochieng. [Photo: James Mwangi]

Dr Charles Ochieng who specialises in vasectomy says many adults are unaware of this birth control method, while others think it is castration; a sex killer.

As a matter of fact, he was disparaged by relatives and friends when he went for vasectomy in 2008 while aged 34.

According to Ochieng, men who opt for vasectomy are between 30 and 40 years of age with two to three children

— and who are “focused on raising lean, healthy families”.

Ochieng said each month, he receives between five and 10 men seeking vasectomy. Only five per cent of them worry about reversal, which is yet to be offered in Kenya.

The operation is free in public hospitals, but private operators like Dr Ochieng charges Sh35,000 for the stitch-less operation that takes 10 to 20 minutes.

“Over 95 per cent of the clients I encounter don’t bother about reversibility.

They are comfortable with the children they have. Reversal machine would cost over Sh500,000 to acquire and it would cost about Sh200,000 to reverse vasectomies,” he said.

According to National Council for Population and Development director general Dr Josephine Kibaru, the government had robust vasectomy campaigns in the 1990s, but slowed down after funding was diverted towards the HIV/Aids epidemic.

“Fertility rate has gone down from eight children per woman in the 1970s to four children, but we still must promote vasectomy whose uptake is hurt by misconceptions even though the procedure is free in public hospitals,” says Kibaru, challenging African men who claim to be jogoos that make all decisions in the family to make this one too and not leave family planning to women.

In 2008 in Kenya, the Demographic and Health Survey conducted random interviews on 24,000 women on family planning practices they used and only one woman said her husband had undergone vasectomy.

Dr Chima Izugbara, a researcher with Africa Population and Health Research Centre, argued that the survey pointed to a low level of awareness and disinterest among Kenyan in family planning as opposed to men in Rwanda and South Africa.

But as concern grows about the negative effects of hormonal family planning methods for women, their is a campaign to have men embrace vasectomy because of its safety and convenience.

Those who promote vasectomy observe that its uptake will go a long way in eliminating abortions, reducing the number of street children and deadbeat fathers in addition to empowering women economically by improving their overall health and productivity.

Vasectomy beneficiary George Mbogah. [Photo: James Mwangi]

George Mbogah, father of one, underwent vasectomy in 2012 to relieve his wife the inconvenience of swallowing family planning pills.

Mboga grew up in a polygamous family of 25 children and experienced hardships that made him opt to raise only one child. He has a young daughter.

“My wife suffered incessant bleeding and backaches. I took up the challenge to undergo vasectomy because her pains were just too much,” said Mbogah.

His wife Ruth says it wasn’t an easy decision to make because they were a young family with one child, but urges women suffering side effects of family planning to sweet talk their husbands to go for it.

James Okombo, 58 and a father of seven, says he has no regrets for undergoing vasectomy two years ago to make his wife regain her youthful shape.

“My first three kids came like lightening. It was tough bringing them up. From experience I decided to go this way. Somehow, religion and our culture have issues with this method, but it is the wearer of the shoe who knows where it pinches.

My wife has rested from contraceptives and is now fresh like she was decades ago.There is freedom of sex in our life and those who say a man who has undergone vasectomy cannot ejaculate have no idea what they are talking about,” said Okombo.

Dr Ochieng concurs, saying contrary to commonly held myths and perceptions, vasectomy gives mental freedom that boosts sex and eventual ejaculation because the fear of unwanted pregnancy is removed.

“Sperms account for five per cent of ejaculation, so sexual pleasure is unchanged even after cutting off sperm-carrying pipes,” he said.

Eric Kamau, 39, who took advantage of the free operation last week after toying with the idea for three years says it was not an easy decision. Charles Njuguna was persuaded by wife to go for it while Danstan Otieno, 60 and a father of six, came because he saw it as a healthier and convenient family planning method for all concerned.

“It is time men a play central role in family planning. If our wives are not favoured by hormonal contraceptives then we should take up the responsibility and even champion it to fellow men who are unaware of its benefits,” said Otieno.

However, some men like Peter Kimwele, 43, a matatu driver see it as a foreign practice that will render men ‘incomplete’.

He says: “Go for the operation then have a small argument with your wife and see how she will make everybody know you can no longer impregnate a woman.”

But Mercy Magare, a housewife, sees Vasectomy as a double edged sword because though healthier for the woman, it will make men loose because they can longer have unwanted children outside the marriage.

This, she says, could expose them to sexually transmitted diseases.

But Irene Kendi, a woman rights’ crusader, urges women to push their husbands to have enough children by age of 40 then go for vasectomy.