Dar es Salaam — For many years uptake of vasectomy as a family planning method has been very low and only very few men would opt for it.
Although the service numbers have not significantly improved but uptake of this method has promisingly improved as more men become aware of the method and misconception for this minor surgical procedure are cleared.
Slowly numbers of men seeking vasectomy services have started to increase.
This is according to the recent countrywide service numbers reported by Marie Stopes Tanzania.
Previously a majority of men shied away from vasectomy due to poor understanding that family planning was a woman's prerogative, and this was mostly due to lack of knowledge on the service and its benefits.
Further a majority of men believed that undergoing this minor surgical procedure could result to loss of their manhood especially inability to perform sexual intercourse.
This is not true. Vasectomy does not in any way interfere with penile erection or orgasm for men. After vasectomy a man retains his ability to perform sexual intercourse just as before.
A man who underwent vasectomy may have an added advantage on sexual performance as he will perfrom sexual intercourse without any fear of making a woman pregnant. Hence this assurance my bust his sexual performance.
According to Tanzania Demographic Profile of 2016, Tanzania ranked sixth position in the African population data with a fertility rate of 5.2 per cent, while the current population stands at 54.2 million and expected to grow to 134.8 million by 2050 while its modern contraceptive methods stand at 32 per cent.
Demographic index indicates that the country's birth rate stands at 36 births per 1,000 population according to the 2016 estimates. Family planning benefits the health and well-being of women, children, families and communities and is a key component of sexual and reproductive health services.
Effective, timely contraception and birth spacing has far reaching benefits for individuals, families, villages, their environment and livelihoods.
In view of this, Marie Stopes Tanzania director of Health Systems Management, Dr Jeremiah Makula, told The Citizen that more men have become aware of family planning benefits and the number of men coming with their spouses in reproductive and child health clinics is increasing.
It is very encouraging that some men now feel the urge to lessen the burden of birth control that has been carried for decades by women and chose vasectomy as a method of family planning for their families.
They feel that they should be the one to take responsibility for their families and not leaving that burden to women.
"It is now common, to see couples, visiting our service delivery clinics or outreach to seek family planning services," he said.
According to him, while the number of males attending family planning services is still very low compared to women, but the slight increase observed is still a huge step in the right direction.
He urged all men to actively seek family planning information, talk to their spouses on how they both wish to plan their family and participate by accessing condoms and vasectomy services and escort their spouse to family planning clinics for services as the education and counselling provided during those services is key for both.
Dr Makula said that although the unmet needs in several regions are still high, number of facilities offering family planning services in Tanzania has significantly increased. Currently there are more than 6,000 facilities.
Marie Stopes Tanzania is working in every region of Tanzania to complement this government effort by expanding availability of long term and permanent methods to many rural facilities.
The country currently has all range of family planning methods including condoms, pills, female sterilisation, vasectomy, injectable, mplants and IUDs.
However, he noted that though the 2015/2016 Tanzania Demographic and health Survey shows that the injectable method remains to be the most preferred for family planning, a shift toward longer term methods of family planning like implants and IUDs has also significantly improved.
"The same has also been observed for we are able to perform surgical vasectomy on men and BTL on women at a ratio of 150;8000 annually on women," he said.
Meanwhile, in Ngulu Mkongea Village in Mwanga District, a nurse at Ngulu Dispensary, Ms Mwanaidi Hussein, said that they offer all family planning services which are accessed by women.
She said that while the dispensary provides the short time types of contraceptives, once in a while Marie Stopes would visit to educate and provide long time family planning methods.
Explaining she said that in May this year, they performed BTLs to a total of 16 women aged between 25 and 49.
She said that, though it is not very common to see women requesting BTL at the age younger than 30, sometimes it happens as these women decide to undergo the procedure because they already have more than six children, and they felt they could not continue having more.
"While you will normally see women aged between 35 and 42 seeking permanent contraception, but some very few women who are at the age bracket of 25 and 34 years decide to have the procedure because they already have more than five children whose spacing is a year or two apart," she said.
According to her, women usually go through a health education and then through a very thorough counselling of all range of family planning methods .
Then they are given choice to select a method which theythink is suitable for them.
In counselling these younger women who seek for permanent methods they usually cross check if she is really sure that this is the only method she wants.
"Counselling gives them a chance to change their mind because there is a possibility they could get married again and need to have more children for their new husbands, but some of these women are very determined and they are adamant that they had had enough children and had no plans to continue," she said.
The executive director of Family Planning Association of Tanzania (Umati), Dr Lugano Daimon, also echoed similar arguments adding that Tanzania has made huge strides in delivering family planning for men.
He said since the year started, Umati was able to perform vasectomy on 10 men and 500 women a fact that showed a majority of the people now preferred the long time method of family planning.
"We are now moving away from bad customs that shifted all the burden of family planning on women, and now we see some men coming forward to have vasectomy instead of just depending on their wives," he said.
Meanwhile the government had increased its budget allocation on family planning to ensure the service is adequately provided in the country.
He said in this year's budget, the government allocated at least Sh14 billion compared to a Sh5 billion in the 2015/16 budget.
Family planning affects people in myriad ways. Most fundamentally, it advances human rights. Voluntary family planning helps women and men secure their rights to decide freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have.
Family planning supports the rights of the girl child to remain unmarried and childless, until she is physically, psychologically, and economically ready, and desires to bear children.