WE see it everyday, the inherent bias in a lot of family planning and contraception initiatives. Women are the focus of most, and are educated on the various methods available to them to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately, equal burden regarding pregnancy and contraception has not been placed on men, and outside of the “wear a condom every time” campaign, men, many of whom lead decisions on family planning in their households, are but minor characters in these narratives.
Engaging more men in the contraception awareness campaigns, according to obstetrician-gynaecologist Dr Robyn Khemlani, will not only increase the chances of a reduction in unplanned pregnancies, but it will also lift the burden that women have been carrying for centuries which make them feel “more responsible” than men when they get pregnant since they have to carry the babies.
“The condom is the most common and cheapest birth control method available to men, and so naturally it would be the most commonly used method. However, there are several options — temporary and permanent — that men have to help avoid unplanned pregnancies, including outercourse and vasectomy,” she said.
Not sure of what options are available? See the list of available contraception methods below.
The condom is said to be 98 per cent effective and has the added benefit of protecting both parties from sexually transmitted diseases. Other benefits include that they are cheap, widely available, user-controlled and come with few side effects.
“Vasectomy, also known as male sterilisation, is a procedure whereby a surgeon cuts and seals off the tubes that the sperm pass through to reach the testicles,” Dr Khemlani explained. She said that the permanent contraceptive method is the most effective birth control option for men.
Vasectomy is a quick, simple, highly effective and convenient method of permanent sterilisation. The major drawback is its limited reversibility.
The outercourse, as the name suggests, does not include penetration, or at least no penile penetration. This method includes all the different kinds of sex or foreplay and occurs in the absence of penetrative intercourse.
Many of us know it as the pull out method — it is one of the simplest and oldest forms of birth control.
“The withdrawal method is one of the techniques most commonly practised among married and committed couples. Using this method alone works just 78 per cent of the time. So in a given year, 22 out of 100 couples who rely on it for birth control will end up with a pregnancy,” Dr Khemlani said.
Traditional methods of male contraception have also included periodic abstinence. This involves limiting sexual intercourse to a woman's “safe” days. This is a cost and device-free method; however, it is not very reliable.
Scientists are also now working on a male birth control pill similar to the female oral contraceptive pill available for women. The drugs are currently being tested.