Male Contraceptives and Stereotypes: Breaking the Jinx for Improved Sexual Reproductive Health

Men play a critical role directly or indirectly, positively or negatively on Sexual Reproductive Health Rights of women and children. Contraceptive methods for a long time have a focus on women. Men have been using different contraceptive methods until the emergent of male contraceptives. The main barrier to the use of male contraception is the fear of the side effects that modern contraception have.

Traditionally, men are the decision-makers on the size of the family with the most significant challenge being prolonged birth spacing. The current economic status in Africa does not allow one to have large families comfortably. The use of contraceptives is highly dependent on women. Perceptions have been and still are that reproductive health falls in women’s domain due to gender norms, and as traditional family planning communication is geared mainly towards women. Women have taken up the caregiver work; being a good wife, giving birth and taking care of the children. Men have put the whole responsibility of contraceptives on women. Women should ensure that they have taken their contraceptive pills on time if they are on safe days.

The most common form of contraceptives that are being used by men is condoms, followed by the use of condoms, withdrawal and the least common are vasectomy and injections. Vasectomy/male sterilization is a minor surgery done to prevent the sperms from reaching the semen, a condom is a thin piece of rubber material that a man wears during sexual intercourse, and withdrawal is the practice of withdrawing the male genitals from the female genitals and away from the female genitals to prevent pregnancy.

Vasectomy is the least preferred method of contraception by men, mainly because it is irreversible. Culture and tradition also play a role as men must always be perceived to be productive. Condoms are the most preferred means of contraceptive methods by men and even women, not only does it prevent cases of pregnancy, but it also prevents the contraction of Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs). If used properly, they are 98% effective. Condoms have improved over time, and one can now get flavoured or rugged. It is, however, can cause allergic reactions, sometimes break and is seen to reduce sexual pleasure. The use of condoms reduces overtime when relationships get established, and couples resort to female contraception.  Withdrawal is a method considered for experts. It is preferred because it is easy to access, and it is free. However, it requires a lot is self-control. Most men do not prefer the use of withdrawal as it requires one to be attentive hence missing the whole point of sexual pleasure. This method faces the challenge that men are unable to withdrawal promptly or women sometimes prevent the withdrawal. Withdrawal is also advised if only one is sure of a faithful partner; otherwise, there are significant risks of contracting STIs. It is believed that pornography plays a leading role in the perception of withdrawal. Male pills and injections are still on pilot stages before men can embrace their use.

Use of male contraception has encountered obstacles like the perception that it reduces the sperm count in the semen that can cause temporary sterility, inadequate information on the long-term effects of male contraception, culture and traditions and accessibility at the clinics to mention a few. Most men are not aware of the contraceptive methods they could use. The information that they have is either through advertisements or from their spouses. Men should be sensitized on the different male contraceptives methods and breaking down the stereotypes associated with male contraceptive methods. There is a need to incorporate male contraception in sex education taught in schools, continuous campaign on the positive impact of using male contraception and most importantly have women as crucial participants in the process.

Decision-making on contraceptive methods is a shared responsibility of both men and women. Demystifying these stereotypes and having behaviour change among men is one step closer to improving Sexual Reproductive Health of women and girls.

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