Caring guys opt for vasectomies

By Lindy Laird


Northland men are not bucking the national trend when it comes to New Zealand's world-beating rate of vasectomies.
Whangarei urologist Tony Nixon is surprised that recent statistics show only one in five Kiwi men choose the procedure.
"I thought it was more like one in two," Mr Nixon said.
He carries out, on average, three a week. Most clients are in the 35 to 40-year age group - older men having usually already had it done, and younger ones not yet ready.
Mr Nixon wonders if New Zealand men are unique in their preference for the snip because at heart they're caring, sharing sort of guys, "willing to take the contraceptive responsibility off their wives or partners".
Basically the hour-long, simple surgical procedure has not changed over many decades, Mr Nixon said.
But the first cut is not always the deepest.
The procedure has a failure rate of about one in 300, and almost 10 percent of men who have vasectomies later ask for a reversal. Mr Nixon does about five reversals a year.
Vasectomy seems to appeal to all ages and social groups, although Mr Nixon thinks Maori men are less highly represented, and it's extremely rare for young, single men to ask for a vasectomy.
If they did, Mr Nixon would be reluctant to comply, he said.
"Sometimes we see couples who are quite certain they do not want a family and we'll usually do it in those cases."
It's not common these days to hear the old chestnuts, told in exaggerated falsetto voices, about how having the snip somehow renders men less manly. By the time Mr Nixon sees his clients they're "pretty comfortable" about the topic.
But men tend to be extremely sensitive about their private parts, and parts of the procedure can be "scary", he said.
Nationwide, 25 percent of married men and 18 percent of single men across all social and income groups have had the snip.

Middle-aged men are the highest represented group, with a whopping 57 percent between 40 to 49 having been vasectomised.
In the USA, only seven percent put their loins on the line for contraception.
"We're looking forward to research findings that would explain why vasectomies are so popular," Family Planning national chief executive Jackie Edmond said.
"Many of the people we see are couples who have finished having a family and have decided the woman should no longer have to be responsible for contraception."
Vasectomies were often covered by medical insurance, and therefore affordable and accessible privately, Ms Edmond said.
"It's an anomaly, and unfair. Women have to pay for IUDs, tubal ligations and contraceptive pills."
* Snipped and happy
Whangarei man Lloyd Thomas isn't surprised to learn he's among the one in five Kiwi guys who have had the snip.
"It's pretty sort of sane stuff really. I'd be happy to recommend vasectomy."
But his own experience, like many others', could screw the statistics slightly because Mr Thomas has had two vasectomies not because the first didn't work, but because - in between the two he'd had a reversal.
He had his first vasectomy nearly 30 years ago, at the age of 26, after he and his wife had completed their family.
"I honestly can't recall being warned I might want a reversal one day but, in the context of it being done through Family Planning, I imagine all aspects were pretty well covered."
Mr Thomas had the vasectomy reversed some years after his first marriage ended and he and a new partner wanted children.
That more complicated procedure was successful, although he had been warned there was a 50/50 chance it might not be. And then, several years later, Mr Thomas willingly had another vasectomy.
"I have no regrets about any of it. I'm comfortable about it all," he said.
Mike - who does not want his surname used - was 27 when he had a vasectomy nearly 30 years ago.
Viewing vasectomy as the sensible way to go, Mike is still surprised that as many as one in five New Zealand men have gone there. He had one child from a broken relationship and, with a new partner who had children, had no plans for more.
A strong factor in choosing vasectomy over other contraception was that Mike didn't think it fair his partner would otherwise "pump herself full of chemicals". Plus, he was the more adamant about wanting permanent sterility.
"I told the doctor that if he wasn't going to do it, I would."
He ignored the many myths of the time, such as a male friend warning that vasectomies lead to heart problems and impotence, and he paid no heed to jokes about the knife slipping.
But the extent to which tender body parts ended up "like big, black and blue tennis balls" came as a surprise - and Mike thought it may have been due to heavy-handedness by the doctor in a central North Island town. It was still a procedure he has never regretted, he said.

- Northern Advocate

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