Vasectomies have the potential to be a powerful tool to curb population. By nature, they serve as a more effective, long-term solution than other methods of contraception. The procedure is a one time ordeal, as opposed using a condom or birth control pill, and avoids the negative side effects of hormonal birth control for women while have very few side effects itself. This could be especially effective in areas with low resources that have poor access to other contraceptives. However, despite being the most effective form of male contraception, only 2.4% of men use vasectomy worldwide. Why are vasectomies so unpopular? And how can we change that?
For one, many people are simply uninformed about vasectomy as a birth control method. Studies of vasectomy awareness in Ethiopian, Nigerian, and Turkish men and women range from a lowest of 15.6% to highest of 39.6%. This extends to doctors as well- many care providers in low resource areas are not well informed about vasectomy, and do not provide the service. This lack of awareness is a major barrier to making vasectomy a more popular form of birth control.
Another reason is negative attitudes toward vasectomy. Surveys showed that some participants felt that a vasectomy results in a loss of masculinity, or that they would be judged by others if they found out about the procedure. In India, men felt that a vasectomy would make them subservient to their wife, and that female sterilization is preferred because men contribute more economically (note that tubal ligation is far more invasive, costly, and dangerous that a vasectomy). These attitudes ultimately stem from deeply ingrained sexism. Getting rid of these erroneous notions would go a long way in making vasectomy more prevalent. In Africa, 0.1% of men have undergone vasectomies. Myths and misconceptions stop African men from going for a vasectomy, and vasectomy is often associated with de-masculinisation, framing it in terms of castration.
One of the most effective ways of both increasing awareness and correcting negative attitudes toward vasectomy is through education, both within the community and through mass communications. Programs such as the ACQUIRE Project’s “Get a Permanent Smile” campaign sought to address myths regarding vasectomies in low resource areas in Bangladesh and Ghana through posters, radio and television broadcasts. These types of campaigns are quite effective, and have been shown to cause spikes in demands for vasectomies.
Employer based promotion is another method of making vasectomies more popular. Once again education is key here. In one Indian study, employees from several workplaces were allowed to attend educational workshops on long acting birth control methods. Companies also trained health coordinators, provided health service desks, and providing a family planning hotline. Participants were reportedly more likely to discuss family planning, as well as make the switch from short-term contraceptives to long term ones. Incentivising employers to provide such services to their employees would encourage more men to get a vasectomy.
Vasectomies have been sorely underutilized as a form of contraception. It may be a long road ahead before worldwide adoption of vasectomy as a birth control method is reached, but as information becomes more widely available, more men will opt for vasectomies.