, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 – Visibly dazed, he wondered, “What if it rains, God forbid, my wife and children drown, and will I ask my neighbour to sire other children for me?”
William Chacha, a Nairobi-based boda boda operator wondered after this reporter asked him whether he would undergo a vasectomy at any stage of his life.
He plans to get five children, “but I may marry another wife. I need to have my organs working.”
For Justus Muthusi, “it is the woman who should control the number of children we want to have.”
Others cited their religious beliefs while vowing never to undergo such an operation.
But just a few metres away from the working spot, at Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK) tens of men were undergoing a vasectomy, courageously so, in the spirit of the movement “an act of love.”
A few others, mostly university students, have been turned away.
And in there, they say, it is only responsible men who get inside the theatre room, undergo a 10-minute exercise and walk out “in control of his future and family.”
We witness John, not his real name, undergoing the ‘small cut’ and seek to understand what inspired him.
“I was only ready to bring up two children, and I was already done. But I am a father of four after my wife gave birth to twins; the pills (birth control) failed. I am doing this for her and my children,” he said.
It is too late, he says, but don’t want to take chances again.
What is vasectomy?
It is an operation done on a man, to stop sperm from being able to leave the testes.
The surgeon makes a small cut in the upper part of the scrotum, under the penis, and then cuts, ties, or blocks the vas deferens – the duct which conveys sperm from the testicle to the urethra.
After that, the surgical cuts get stitched up and one is free to go.
And according to doctors interviewed by Capital FM News, some men get a “no-scalpel” vasectomy, which uses very small holes instead of cuts and doesn’t require stitches.
Our first interview was with Dr Douglas Stein, a co-founder of the World Vasectomy Day based in the United States and under his belt, more than 40,000 USA citizens have undergone the operation.
Some 30 years ago, the father of three underwent a vasectomy and has kind words for men like him.
“They are most responsible men. What they are doing by having a vasectomy is demonstrating that responsibility to their family – wife and children, by being responsible enough to participate in family planning once they have as many children as they want,” he says.
And that is informed, he said, by the need “to give your children a good life. College is expensive.”
Dr Stein says after a vasectomy, a man will only engage in sex after two days.
But after a man has undergone a vasectomy, the doctor says his wife should continue taking birth control for at least three months.
“She should continue with the use of birth control until you get a test that shows that your semen is free of sperm,” he says.
“You can get this test after you’ve had 10-20 ejaculations after the vasectomy.”
Can it be reversed?
In some cases, the doctor says it’s possible.
But reversing a vasectomy isn’t easy and doesn’t always work.
“With a vasectomy, the chance of sperm returning to the semen decreases by about 2 per cent per year and a chance of causing a pregnancy decreases by 5 per cent per year,” he says.
Dr Charles Ochieng, a Kenyan vasectomist, says a considerable number of married Kenyan men are slowly opting for the method.
“The numbers are rising though not to the levels we want. A lot of people think it is castration, but it is not,” Dr Ochieng says. “It is a modern, safe and effective family planning method for men whose families are complete.”
For those who can afford, he says they charge Sh15,000.
Would you allow your man to undergo vasectomy?
It is a question that many women interviewed received with jitters and just like the boda boda operators, many are wondering what if…
Though it is meant to protect women from other side effects caused by other methods of family planning, Jane Manu said it is good to be careful when allowing a man to pursue that venture.
“We fear because you may never know what is coming next,” she said.
But Ruth Mwihaki says “what a woman can do a man can do better” in reference to family planning pills they usually take.
The mother of one said, “I am satisfied that I already have my child, so if he is okay with not having extra, that is upon him,” she said.
“If I have to continue taking the contraceptives, they affect me. If it is easier for the guy, I don’t see why he should not undergo a vasectomy, after all, it will not affect our sex life.”
What is your take?