26 July 2007

Just a snip

You’re a bloke. Your partner dislikes using the pill. You don’t want any more kids. Here's the most grown-up thing you can do.

You’re a bloke. Your partner dislikes using the pill. You don’t want any more kids, but are looking for safe, healthy contraception methods. In National Sterilisation Week, here’s the most grown-up thing you can do.

You don’t sow wild oats. You’re not in the habit of making babies on a whim - or on anything else. You’re in a long-term relationship and are acutely aware of how much time, money and commitment even one child takes.

Many South African men feel as you do, but just as many are reluctant to accept real responsibility for contraception.

Yes, a pill for men is on the way. But it won’t be ready next month, or even next year, during which time you hope to get up close and personal with your partner at least once and will need some form of contraception.

A few years ago, most men would have considered it inconceivable to be sterilised. The word carried images of asexual beings, robbed of their gender through some hormonal or surgical sabotage, reduced to pale androgyny, rather like David Bowie in his glam-rock incarnation. Not so.

Never worry again

A short, simple, safe and painless procedure enables you to retain your bull-like masculinity while eliminating the risk of making babies. Consider that the alternative is spending the rest of your life with some nagging concern that you might be spawning unwanted heirs. The alternative – if you’re in a monogamous relationship – means never having to worry about any contraception again.

In surgical terms the vasectomy is almost a non-event. Take the afternoon off. This will mean around half an hour at a clinic and the rest of the day to celebrate your freedom. Government hospitals do them for free if you don’t have a medical aid, but they can have long waiting lists. If you do have a medical aid it’s likely that they’ll pay for it.

How are vasectomies done?
Nowadays vasectomies are done by urologists, so your GP is likely to refer you to one. They’re done under local anaesthetic, so you won’t need to spend the night in hospital or to starve yourself before the procedure.

You’ll don the conventional, draughty hospital garb. You’ll be washed down gently while staring contemplatively at the ceiling. A tiny cut – around a centimeter long – will be made in your scrotum.

The vas deferens - the tube connected the testes to the urethra – will be tied off and a small section cut out. One self-dissolving stitch will be put into the scrotum and you walk out again.

That’s it. You’ll feel a little tender in the trouser department for a day or two, but a vasectomy involves far less pain and discomfort than having a tooth filled. You should avoid participation in skydiving, WWF wrestling or ice-hockey for 48 hours after the procedure, but are welcome to watch any of these on TV.

For three months after the procedure you’ll be required to use some additional form of contraception, until there are no active sperm left that could result in an earnest discussion between you and your partner.

You’ll be required to undergo a test to ensure that all is going according to plan.

And don’t underestimate the benefits to your sex life of not having to worry about an unwanted pregnancy. You might find that being free of any concerns about contraception turns up the thermostat in the bedroom.

Theoretically, you could have some of your sperm frozen, so that you can make more babies after your vasectomy, should you decide that you want to. Speak to your GP or urologist.

It’s a win-win situation, as the Americans say. A vasectomy poses no danger to your masculinity - no high-pitched voice and no sprouting of mammalian protuberances. Your much-vaunted libido will remain intact, as will the volume of liquid you ejaculate and the volume of the accompanying chorus.

(William Smook,, updated July 2007)

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