Monday, December 5, 2022

Why more and more young men are considering a vasectomy

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Doctors say more and more young men are considering getting the snip. Here they explain why

When Mike Pridgen turned 17, he went to his doctor and asked for a vasectomy. He was told he was too young. He went back shortly after his 18th birthday. Still too young. Every year for a decade since then, Pridgen has asked as many doctors as he could find.

Finally, at the age of 28, Pridgen was allowed to have what he had longed for: surgery to render him infertile. “They don’t want to do it to young people because they think we’re going to regret it,” says Pridgen, from New Jersey, USA. “But I now feel more secure in my feelings than ever. I don’t know if that regret factor will ever really come to me.”

Pridgen has always known he doesn’t want children, and he’s one of many men in the US and UK who want to eliminate the risk of accidental reproduction by surgically severing the tubes that carry sperm to the penis.

In the UK, NHS data on the number of men who have had the procedure in the past year shows a decrease since 2019, but a urologist says I, this is more likely to be due to the pandemic-related backlog of proceedings than to a trend. “Right now it’s difficult to evaluate the data,” says James Douglas, a urologist at Clinic 78.

Anecdotally, it’s a whole different story. “I’ve been involved with vasectomy for over 13 years and it’s absolutely the busiest year I’ve ever seen,” says Debi Hammond, UK Head of Contraception at MSI Reproductive Choices. “Right now my organization serves up to 7,000 men a year and they are getting younger and younger. That was very noticeable.”

The reason for this renewed interest is unclear, but Hammond speculates that it could be motivated by anything from the cost of living crisis to growing sympathy for women suffering from the side effects of coil implants or the pill to problems of overpopulation . “The young men we spoke to in the United States often cited the climate crisis as an argument,” says Hammond. “But in the UK, they often want to keep their reasons to themselves.”

Compared to last year, Google searches for vasectomies in the UK are twice as high. Type “vasectomy” into TikTok and countless videos will appear. Video blogs show a couple’s “vasectomy date” at a hospital, or the “vasectomy care package” a friend put together for her partner after surgery.

Pridgen has over six million views of his own TikTok video. “A lot of people told me they were nervous about getting it done,” he says. To demystify the process, Pridgen filmed his experience of the procedure: “Face up, of course,” he quickly clarifies.

Pridgen sits on the OR bed with his eyes closed and makes a rolling commentary. “It wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought it would be,” he says to the doctor. “I thought it was going to be like this, I’m losing a ball.” Shortly thereafter, Pridgen left the practice. “I just had a vasectomy. I’m not in pain right now… I’m walking.”

Since his video went viral, Pridgen has stopped counting the number of men who have said they are more open to the idea of ​​the procedure. “I think a lot of people think it’s going to be very painful, but it happened so quickly,” he says.

But with praise comes headwind. “A lot of men don’t like me for suggesting that they take responsibility for birth control,” he says. “A lot more right-wing men will say, ‘The left wants us all castrated,’ but the anger really boils down to people who value themselves for their fertility. Which makes me a little sad.”

For doctors, requests from young men like Pridgen are a challenge. Over the past year, Nicholas Faure Walker, consultant urologist at The Prostate Centre, part of HCA Healthcare UK, has seen a couple of younger men come into his practice to have vasectomies. “In general, we don’t do vasectomies on men under 30. Whether we should do it or not is up for debate. But if I saw a man under 30, I would get a second opinion and advise him very, very carefully,” says Walker. The NHS website states: “You are more likely to be accepted for a vasectomy if you are over 30 and have had children.”

Consulting urologist James Douglas would turn down a young man outright. “Personally, I haven’t seen a huge increase in men in my work, but I’m aware of the increase in young men who think it’s kind of a lifestyle choice,” says Douglas. “I would hope they would have a hard time finding someone to do it for them.”

Matt Saunders, 27, of Manchester, says he would have a vasectomy if it was reversible. “I thought about it and looked into it,” he says. Saunders wants a longer-term form of birth control that isn’t as easy to forget as a condom (of course, a vasectomy doesn’t protect against STIs).

But the notion that a vasectomy can be easily reversed — something men can reverse later in life if they change their parenting aspirations — is a common misconception. “I tell all my patients to consider it permanent,” Walker says. “[Reversal is] a pretty fiddly move. You need to find the two ends of the tube that carries the sperm and then sew them together. The real problem is, even if a surgeon had all the skills in the world, you still don’t necessarily succeed.”

It gets more complicated as time goes by. “Reversal surgery becomes less likely to work the longer you wait after your vasectomy,” Walker warns. “With less than 10 years, we assume a success rate of 55 percent; over 10 years we would call that 25 percent.”

After spending more time researching the procedure, Saunders realized it was a risk. “Obviously the stats on the success of the inversion aren’t ideal, so I wouldn’t do it for that reason, but my friends have been talking about getting one. If there was a 95 percent chance I could undo it, then I think getting one makes sense.”

But for young men looking for a longer-term form of birth control, there aren’t many other places to go. The idea of ​​a male birth control pill has long been touted as a possible alternative for men. “I certainly hear it talked about, but I’ve never heard it mentioned as an offering to the people. It doesn’t exist yet,” Walker admits.

Charlie Sheard, 28, of Skipton, has had strong feelings about vasectomies for some time. “I started thinking about it from my late teens: If women had an easily accessible sex organ on the outside of their body that you could do minor surgery on to provide contraception, it would have been for years… the lack of male ones Contraceptive options compared to females is obviously an age-old sexist construct.”

Sheard isn’t alone in his frustration. “Men should take more control over birth control,” agrees Saunders. “It takes two to tango, and I don’t think it should be one person’s responsibility to take control of these things.”

In Wigan, Carl Lawrence, 38, is what most doctors would consider a typical vasectomy candidate. Lawrence, in her 30s and with five children, was granted treatment immediately after he and his partner decided their family was complete.

The procedure lasted about 20 minutes and Lawrence had a total of about 10 days of discomfort. At first, Lawrence’s friends were joking. But after the procedure, Lawrence was surprised by the number of his buddies who messaged him to find out more about the procedure. one above.

“I think there’s a confidence thing going on. Guys rate themselves against other guys, and you know, it’s pretty disheartening to be masculine in front of a total stranger,” says Lawrence. “But I think more men are taking on that burden now. It is not a woman’s job to have full control over contraception when men can do the same.”

For Pridgen, it goes deeper. “If I had called the same doctors and tried to talk about IVF treatments and fertility, they would help me, no problem.” The emphasis on manly masculinity should be a thing of the past, he says.

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