Family planning finds takers among men

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LEORNARD Mabvurudza of Rimuka in Kadoma is the only man in a long queue of women waiting for their turns to get counselling on family planning matters at a Population Services Zimbabwe Bluestar health care centre.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

He sits cuddling his eight-month-old baby girl, giving an impression that he probably wants counselling on vasectomy, or other male contraceptives, which are some of the services offered at the centre.

But to the contrary, Mabvurudza is only one of those men who feel that contraception is something, which should be administered to women and that responsible men can only support their wives by accompanying them to get counselling on the best family planning methods to use like implants (jadelle and implanon), the pill, intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD or loop), injectables, the male or female condom, lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), tubal ligation or other methods.

“I have accompanied my wife to get family planning counselling from the clinicians,” Mabvurudza said, explaining the reasons why he was sitting at the clinic reception area with several women awaiting their turn to be served.

“We are a young couple and we already have two young kids. We felt we needed family planning counselling to ensure we do not have unplanned for pregnancies.”

Mabvurudza said as a man he thinks it is imperative to get enough information on the family planning method that his wife uses so that he is also able to understand how it works.

“My wife uses jadelle and this method will prevent pregnancies for five years. So far she has not yet experienced problems with the method,” he explained.

Jadelle is a two-rod implant (plastic) with a hormone that is slowly released into a woman’s body to prevent pregnancy.

On possibilities of him going for vasectomy instead of his wife going on contraceptives, Mabvurudza gasped and vehemently shook his head saying it is impossible.

“What? That’s impossible. I cannot do that because it is uncommon for men to do that. I agree on using a condom,” he said.

Population Services Zimbabwe clinical services director Raymond Chikoore said at PSZ clinics, a total of 63 men underwent vasectomy out of the 353 278 clients they attended to seeking family planning services.

Chikoore said men can be assured that their sexual libido will not be affected if they go for vasectomy.Just like the female surgical contraception, tubal ligation, vasectomy is also a permanent and non-reversible method that is recommended for a man who does not wish to have any more children.

The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council guide on permanent family planning methods says vasectomy involves a minor operation undertaken by a trained health service provider, during which the tubes that carry sperm are blocked so that when he has sex his semen has no sperm to fertilise the woman’s egg.

Chikoore said the minor operation is done at a clinic or hospital while the man is awake after being injected with a local anaesthetic.

“The clinician ties the tubes that transport the sperms through the male vas deferens which contain the semen such that after vasectomy there is no sperm produced in the semen. It does not reduce sexual libido. Vasectomy is even simpler than tubal ligation,” he said.

“Sharp forceps are used to get the tubes and tie them. There is slight swelling during the first days and men are encouraged to wear tight pants after the procedure. One has to wait for about three months before effectively relying on the vasectomy method to prevent pregnancies, but they can use alternative methods like the condom and thereafter go for a semen analysis.”

Sitting a few metres away from Mabvurudza at the Rimuka Bluestar health centre is 19-year-old Linda Chingwetu.

She is of a lean stature, and clutches her baby tightly. A close look at her gives an impression that she could be around 16 years of age. But Chingwetu is already a mother of two, and after the second child her mother-in-law then advised her to go for contraception.

“I had my first kid at 15 years and then, I did not know anything about contraceptives. I really did not plan for the baby and I had to drop out of school to get married early,” she said.

“After my second baby my mother in law rang alarm bells and advised me to seek counselling on family planning. I have now started to use jadelle.”

ZNFPC specialist in adolescent sexual reproductive health Marian Machimbirike said lack of knowledge of contraceptives had resulted in youth unwanted pregnancies.

“Around 17% of the youth population aged between 15 and 19 years are already mothers. Some even start sexual activity at the age of 12 years,” she said.

She said one in 10 adolescent girls give birth every year, while 9% of young girls and 8% of young boys have been treated for sexually transmitted infections, and 40% girls and 30% boys have had sex before 18 years.

“We should increase the uptake of family planning services to young people. Youths need life skills because some of them do not know how to say no. The reasons why we have high teenage pregnancies and high HIV rates are because of lack of knowledge. There is need for comprehensive sexuality education from early childhood development to higher education level,” she said.