Sunday, March 13, 2011

V is for Vasectomy

As the good folks at the Oregon Urology Institute have made clear, while watching UConn take on Bucknell, nothing goes better with chips and root beer than a package of frozen peas on your testicles.

Did I just say that?

Is this Lunch Box Mom?

I was even heard talking about vasectomies with the host of “Sandwich Moms”, an upcoming show on the NBC Philadelphia Nonstop cable station.

But even NPR’s Scott Simon was heard talking about vasectomies, March Madness and frozen peas when he interviewed Terry FitzPatrick, the administrator at the Oregon Urology Institute three years ago. Back then, the clinic sent men home with a cooler filled with frozen peas, a sports magazine, a certificate for pizza and a Subway sandwich.

This year, patients get a t-shirt and a doctor’s note. Snip City, as they call it, also gives some advantageous opportunities to fulfill doctor’s orders with prime appointment (and recuperation) periods just before big game weekends on March 16, 17, 23, and 24th.

I’d rather pick glitter out of a shag carpet for a week than be forced to watch three days of college basketball, but if does the trick, then more power to Snip City.

It’s a lighthearted approach compared with the one described by a headline in the Times of London in 2008, “India Offers Firearms Permits for Vasectomies.”

Explained as a “scheme that trades one male status symbol for another” in a district with a high birth rate and enough uncontrolled violence to inspire the strong desire for individual gun ownership, the program fast-tracked applications for gun permits for those who’d gotten vasectomies.

In the year before the program, eight men had gotten vasectomies in Shivpuri, the story notes. In the month after it was introduced, 139.

Here at home, there was a significant increase in the number of men getting vasectomies around that time. But urologists at both the Cleveland Clinic and Cornell Institute for Reproductive Medicine credited that to the bad economy, according to a story on CNN Health.

I am unqualified to talk about vasectomies being neither a urologist nor a male, but as a woman conversing about the number of decisions and responsibilities women juggle, the topic is fair game.

Consider this: on the to-do list for most women of childbearing years, who do not wish to have more kids, birth control ranks somewhere between “buying milk” and “breathing” among things one doesn’t want to forget.

The urologist I interviewed called the vasectomy a gift a husband can give to his wife. The term sounded presumptuous in the context of “hey baby, ready when you are,” but it made sense in the realm of “I did something so you don’t have to.”

I believe it’s called Choreplay.

No more does a woman need to take hormones, remember to take hormones, get an IUD, a patch, sign up for a tubal ligation, or wait in line at ShopRite with a box of Trojans next to the Tropicana.

The Pill is still the most popular form of birth control for the women at a popular practice in my town, according to one gynecologist I spoke with. And when it comes to forms of sterilization, women take the lead, with 100,000 more tubal ligations than vasectomies performed nationally per year. (It’s hard to find consistent numbers, but it ranges from 500,000/400,000 to 600,000/500,000.)

On paper the trends don’t make sense. A tubal ligation is more expensive, more risky, arguably less effective, and requires a longer recovery time than a vasectomy.

But, as the urologist I interviewed said, if a man doesn’t want to get a vasectomy, and if he believes it will dampen his sexual satisfaction, then not much is going to change his mind.

For those who are contemplating it, however, does the prospect of watching an underdog beat out a perennial favorite in the final four without the threat of being asked to forfeit prime couch space or the remote control to a dog, child, or wife, make it more appealing?

I admit, if you told me I could spend 72 hours watching nothing but Agatha Christie mysteries on PBS, I might, just maybe, consider getting a root canal....

For a discussion of vasectomies, without a single reference to basketball, you can read this Q&A with Dr. Marc Goldstein, one of first surgeons to introduce the no-scalpel vasectomy in the United States. He is interviewed by The New York Times.

10 comments:

Hollee Temple said...

I wasn't sure where you were going with that one at first, but as always, it all made sense in the end. I think your root canal fantasy has something to do with sleep deprivation! (Although I must admit, I have an odd fondness for the dentist that I didn't have before children. The quiet time feels oddly good.)

Lunch Box Mom said...

Hollee-I never thought of getting a root canal as a way to catch a nap--now you're thinking in a more creative way than I ever did...:)

Tim Morrissey said...

On a Friday in June of 1985. No cooler, no frozen peas, no magazine, no fast-food certificates.

Just a big thank-you from my wife, and a weekend on the couch watching (instead of playing) golf.

More than adequate recompense.

parenting ad absurdum said...

There is a doctor in Seattle called Dr. Snip, and he gives out free penknives post surgery :).

There is a certain guy out there I need to forward this to...

Mari Passananti said...

Thanks for a great read. I suspect the reasons tubal ligations still out number vasectomies has something to do with the fact that women are a) conditioned to control birth control and b) some women want to be absolutely sure the man went through with it. I have heard more than one anecdote about men losing nerve when faced drawer less with a scalpel.
And I really hope the firearm incentive never catches on here.

Lunch Box Mom said...

Peryl--Dr. Snip...that reminds me..the urologist I interviewed went by "the plumber" in his email. I guess there is a lot of creativity in the field...
And, Mari, great insight, and I agree on the hope that some incentives, (unlike March Madness) do not gain popularity here...

Kristi said...

It's way past due for vasectomies to become a mainstream birth control method. I informed my husband, when we were dating, that after we were done having kids I would want him to get a vasectomy. (What can I say, I'm a planner!) Why should I have to continue taking a hormonal pill for decades that could increase my risk of cancer when he could a simple procedure done? I figure, I take on the responsibility for birth control the first half of the marriage, and then he takes it on for the second half. Fair, right?

Kristi said...

It's way past due for vasectomies to become a mainstream birth control method. I informed my husband, when we were dating, that after we were done having kids I would want him to get a vasectomy. (What can I say, I'm a planner!) Why should I have to continue taking a hormonal pill for decades that could increase my risk of cancer when he could a simple procedure done? I figure, I take on the responsibility for birth control the first half of the marriage, and then he takes it on for the second half. Fair, right?

Liz said...

Loved this one, it made me laugh out loud and read portions to my husband. I just had a tubal, but only because they were already there with the c-section...

Harold Judelman said...

I do get your point here. It is quite sad to see how other people would treat something as serious and life-altering as vasectomy as some sort of barter agreement. I think getting one should be a conscious, educated decision between a couple, but it should accompany the willingness of the husband to undergo vasectomy. It is his body, after all, and so he must have the final say. Furthermore, I feel like it should not be promoted to everyone, but rather presented as an option for birth control.
Harold Judelman