“FOR most men, the word ‘Vasectomy’ spells doom, for them, it can translate to a matter of life or death….in terms of sexual activity,” These words were uttered by 47-year-old resident of Simiyu Region, Mr John Sayi, who came out in the open to assure men that vasectomy does not in any way interfere with a man’s sexual prowess. Mr Sayi, who has undergone vasectomy, is positive about it and says many men feared it out of ignorance.
“I have six children – three of them are still small and three others are grown up and independent,” he says.
He explained that his three small children needed to access basic social services, including going to school until they reached university level, depending on their ability to pursue such studies. As a parent, he says he has to make sure they get all their requirements until they become independent.
The resident of Sulu Street in Mbalagani, Maswa District, in Simiyu Region underwent vasectomy in April this year. His wife had been using contraceptives to ensure they plan their family and take care of them as best as they can. He says he is positive about vasectomy because after undergoing the operation, he is still sexually active, which has brought harmony in his marriage.
He says he felt better because the fears he had no longer preoccupied his mind. Mr Sayi dismisses rumours that vasectomy can lead to erectile dysfunction, reiterating “In fact I have more sexual stamina than before.” He commended health service providers for raising public awareness on family planning (FP) issues through which he heard about vasectomy service. He says after hearing about it, he consulted his wife, who was supportive of his idea of undergoing vasectomy.
A few days later, he was operated on at Bariadi District Hospital. “I didn’t experience any side effects afterwards,” he says, calling on fellow men with many children to think about it. Mr Sayi says he is ready to launch a campaign to sensitise men who still have negative opinion and false beliefs and speculations they have on vasectomy and show its benefits. Simiyu Regional Reproductive and Child Health Coordinator (RRCHCo), Mary Makunja says at least three men had undergone vasectomy this year.
Although it was still a small number compared to needs, she says it is a success because many men in Simiyu are against FP and did not want their wives to use it no matter how many children one has. Through public awareness and support from ‘USAID Afya Yangu-RMNCAH’ Project, FP services to women have increased to at least 45 per cent by August this year from 36 per cent the year before.
The project provides technical support to staff members on how best to offer both long and permanent FP methods, including vasectomy.
The project, which runs for five years, has been implemented in collaboration with various stakeholders from Mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar since January 2022 under the US Agency for International Development (USAID). “The birth rate was high in our region. In the past, we used to see a woman having 12 or more children, with no spacing, which put both the mother and her newly born baby at high health risk,” said Ms Makunja.
She says it was risky because such a mother had no time to engage herself in economic activities apart from maybe growing crops to support her family.
“Worse enough, she conceives in a year while her body is still weak after the previous pregnancy. Hence, she becomes susceptible to maternal mortality which should have been avoided,” the coordinator explained. At least 100 women have been exposed to various FP methods in Simiyu this year.
“I commend men for supporting FP for the betterment of mother and child,”. “We stick to national guidelines and targets, which focus on zero maternal mortality. Neither mother nor new-born baby is supposed to die,” she stressed. Given the availability of experts through ‘USAID Afya Yangu-RMNCAH’, long-term FP methods are also offered at Muungano Health Centre in Bariadi District.
Women’s response to FP service has increased from 33 per cent in January to 68 per cent in August this year, according to Muungano Health Centre Nursing Officer, Yustima Feya. Many women complain that when they delay giving birth to another baby, the husband looks for another woman, which hinders FP efforts.
Men also complain that women may cheat on them if they follow FP long-term methods because such methods are associated with erectile dysfunction or infertility.
“However, public awareness has made a difference as men now accompany their wives when they go for contraceptives. They understand the impact of child spacing, which is our target as we need women to be in good health, take care of their children and live in love and peace with their husbands,” says Ms Feya.
She explained that the majority of men were still reluctant to undergo vasectomy and with the public awareness campaign underway more men would know what FP and vasectomy is all about. Long-term FP methods at Muungano Health Centre are offered immediately after a mother gives birth, and Ms Neema Jackson is one of the women who have benefited from it.
She delivered a new baby last week and was served with an ‘implanon’ type of birth control method. She admitted to have avoided health services until she was assured that FP didn’t limit the number of children one would like to have as many people thought, but it ensured child spacing to help mothers take care of their babies. She and her husband have agreed to have only four children.
“This is my third child. I have undergone a three-year-contraceptive method to free myself from unexpected pregnancies,” she said.