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Permanent contraception: the man or the woman?

Permanent contraception is also referred to as sterilization. As the name implies, it is a permanent form of birth control. It is suitable for couples who harbor no future desires for more children, and is also recommended in individuals with certain medical conditions where pregnancy is ill advised

If a couple is contemplating sterilization, either the man or the woman can choose to undergo the procedure. Women can undergo tubal sterilization, which involves closing off the fallopian tubes.

This prevents an egg from moving down the tube to the womb, and keeps the sperms from reaching the eggs. The sterilization procedure for men is called vasectomy.

This involves blocking the tubes that carry sperms out of the testes, thereby preventing pregnancy. Contrary to unwarranted fears, neither of the procedures affects sexual function. Couples can continue to enjoy sex as normal, without the added fear of unwanted pregnancies.

There is an imbalance between male and female sterilization in our society. Women are more likely to come forth for sterilization compared to men. This is partly due to cultural norms and inadequate information. There are many reasons why men should opt for sterilization. Doing a vasectomy is technically easier, less expensive and less prone to risk of failure compared to female sterilization.

Men can have a vasectomy at any time of their choosing. All that is required is a small puncture on the scrotum, facilitating access and sealing of the tubes that transport sperms. The procedure is completed within minutes, and the men can go home immediately. Complications are rare, and recovery is quick. Vasectomy is however not effective right away. It takes up to 3 months for the semen to be completely free of sperms. Additional protective measures must be used during this period, and a test to confirm the absence of sperms is advisable after 3 months. Having and maintaining an erection, and ejaculation will continue as normal.

If contemplating permanent contraception, please come together with your partner for a consultation. Be as sure as you can be that you have no desires for future fertility. Young couples should consider using alternate long-term contraceptive methods, as they run the risk of regrets in the future. Make sure you understand what exactly will be done, ask questions if anything is unclear. If any doubt arises, choose a comparable long-term contraceptive method in the meantime, you can always come back later. Beware there is very small risk of failure after sterilization. If a period is missed, do a pregnancy test straight away and alert your Gynecologist if the result is positive.

What if desire for pregnancy arises in the future?

Reversal of sterilization is technically possible, but prone to failure. Recourse to modern assisted conception techniques may end up being the way out to achieve subsequent pregnancy.

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