Moms and Dads
Getting A Vasectomy In The Philippines: One Dad’s Experience
A dad of two gets real about getting snipped. Here’s his story about his vasectomy…
When my wife and I discovered she was pregnant with our second child, it was, to put it mildly, unexpected. We were already raising a toddler, though we’d been talking about having another kid. But we wanted to give it a few more years, to space them out a bit. Having one arrive so quickly after the other was completely left of field. Especially considering how much trouble we had conceiving the first.
It’s only fair…
By the time we decided to stop having kids, my wife had already undergone two rounds of difficult childbirth. Both of them turned out to be emergency C-sections. It was only fair, then, that I go through a vasectomy instead of her a tubal ligation. Vasectomies are quicker, cheaper, and much less invasive.
Vasectomies in the Philippines are extremely rare– a 2013 study by the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population found that less than 1% of Filipino men had undergone vasectomy, despite the fact that it was one of the most effective (and cost-effective) family planning options available.
After a couple weeks of research, calling different hospitals and talking to urologists, I was convinced: I was going to get snipped.
Getting a vasectomy in the Philippines
I decided to get mine at Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo in 2019, one of their last before COVID hit and Manila operations were put on hold. It was an event held by No Scalpel Vasectomy International, a US-based organization that spans the Philippines, Haiti, and Kenya to help provide couples with access to cheap, effective birth control and family planning.
They concentrate on poor areas and patients who have little to no access to family planning methods, but accept donations from non-indigent patients to subsidize other patients. And even then, according to the doctors I talked to, they can struggle to find patients who want to undergo the procedure for free.
Why don’t Filipino men get vasectomies?
Aside from just the visceral fear of having sharp objects near their delicate bits, many Filipino men view vasectomy as a form of castration. According to one of the counsellors during the event, many of the fears include lowered sexual performance/pleasure, pain, or fear of reproductive complications.
How the vasectomy went down
In the event I attended on the day of my procedure, (it happened to be World Vasectomy Day) NSVI pulled all the stops to address those fears. The first hundred patients were to be given the title of “Spartan” and a literal medal and photo ops. To drive the point home, they got a male model to strut shirtless around the hospital in a Leonidas-style cape, shield, and sandals ensemble, taking pictures and encouraging people to sign up.
On scenes in the waiting area, interspersed among the informational videos about the procedure, a condom company sponsoring the event had a video of starlets oohing and aahing over how attractive responsible fathers are (“that’s so hot!” one of them declared breathily about family planning). A local staffer noticed my amusement and said, “It’s silly, but it works for the target audience.”
Another thing they did was to provide 1,000 in grocery gift checks, to help support breadwinners who may be unable to work for a day or two while recuperating. It was a very thoughtful approach, and got more people interested than usual.
A sad epilogue, though– a few days later, when I called and asked about attendance, the staffer on the phone put the number of patients that day at “about 20.” Maybe Leonidas wasn’t manly enough to convince more locals. Still, the staffer said, it was an improvement over the previous year. We’ve got a ways to go, apparently, before responsible parenthood trumps macho pride.
How much do vasectomies cost?
Mine was technically free, but I gave a donation of a few thousand pesos to the organization. In major hospitals, the price can vary between P20,000-50,000. It depends on the hospital and the urologist, though in public hospitals and some clinics the price can be lower.
And yes, vasectomies are covered by Philhealth.
What happens during a vasectomy?
Unlike a tubal ligation, a vasectomy doesn’t involve major surgery. A tiny incision (or a puncture, in the no-scalpel version) is made in the scrotum. Then, the vas deferens– the tubes through which the sperm travel from the testicles– are pulled out, cut, cauterized, clamped, and tucked back in.
The procedure takes less than 30 minutes, with local anesthesia. The doctor and I were chatting while I was on the operating table. I even video called my wife during the procedure to give her updates. You can be in and out of the hospital in a matter of hours.
While you could technically be back at work the same day, I’d advise you to wait. Once the local anaesthesia wears off , you’ll want to be wearing some snug underwear (for support). Painkillers and an ice bag for a day or two would be good, too. I took a cab home– every little pothole in the road (this was Tondo, remember) made me wince. Still, it wasn’t bad– I was in more pain when I had a toothache.
My daughter, of course, headbutted my groin later that evening. For the next two days, it hurt, but only in the same way a bruise would. There was some tenderness in the area, and a little pain while moving (or colliding with a toddler’s head). I recovered over the weekend and was back to work on Monday. There was some discomfort, which went away by Tuesday.
Are vasectomies reversible?
No, they are not. I mean, technically, yes, but the procedure to reverse a vasectomy is a lot harder and much more expensive, and may result in trouble conceiving anyway.
Doctors really want you to think of vasectomy as a permanent sterilization procedure. Once you go to a urologist for this, you and your partner may undergo counseling as part of the process. This is so you both know the risks, and you’re getting the procedure for the right reasons.
So does everything still work?
We are happy to report that all the parts still work as intended. My urologist recommended we continue using birth control for 3 months after the procedure. He mentioned that while the sperm supply has been cut off, there may be some active sperm in my system that could cause pregnancy. Waiting for a bit, and then taking a sperm count to confirm I didn’t have any more swimmers lingering in the pool was the final confirmation I needed.
Afterwards, we were back to being sexually active. Even more so, in some ways (or as much as being parents of two toddlers would allow, anyway). But then we didn’t have to worry about contraception, or her taking pills that messed with her hormones, or scheduling against her cycle. Like one of the women from the video at the hospital said, “freedom to play, ha!”
Why it’s the best decision I’ve made
Overall, the vasectomy has been key to our family planning– we can align our finances and plans around our family, and give us a little more security in the future. It’s also brought us closer as a couple, since we were able to make a decision together about our family.
Sadly, we haven’t been able to talk about this with our own families, who are deeply conservative. We’ve talked about it with close friends though, and have convinced a few to have it done. Considering how fast, cheap and simple the procedure is, vasectomies really should be more widespread, especially in a country like the Philippines. If they need volunteers to get more Spartans to convince people, sign me up!
NSVI still holds events in Cebu and Davao City. Follow their Facebook page for their event schedules. Donate to NSVI to help provide family planning options so that parents all over the world can support their children.