The full version of this commentary can be found at the Baltimore Sun.
We are at the tipoff of vasectomy season. This is the short-lived period each year when some men choose to schedule their vasectomies around the NCAA basketball tournament, which officially starts Tuesday. These guys recuperate from the procedure by watching a couple of days of back-to-back-to-back basketball games — potentially while balancing a beer, a bowl of pretzels and a bag of frozen peas in their laps. Don’t get me wrong, I support this 100 percent for people who can pull this off. There are worse ways to spend your time and take an active role in family planning.
In multiple talks about men’s reproductive health, I’ve shared that I was never counseled by a health professional on family planning until I decided to get a vasectomy at almost 40 years old, as a father of two and a few years into a second career conducting research in global public health. Before working in this field, my knowledge about contraception came through friends, what I read in pamphlets at the college health clinic, girlfriends and one terrifying lecture from a well-intended girlfriend’s mom. There is nothing unique about my experience; studies reflected similar gaps in family planning counseling and services among 15-to-44-year-old men in the U.S.
Only two “modern” contraceptive methods are available for men: vasectomy and the male condom. Fertility awareness methods (such as the rhythm method and another method that involves monitoring cervical mucus) are considered couple-based, while withdrawal is generally considered unreliable (despite my friend John’s claimed expertise). ….