Vasectomies appear to have gone dramatically out of fashion, with a decline of 64% in the number of men undergoing the procedure within the last 10 years, leaving women once more shouldering the responsibility for contraception.
But the reasons for the apparent shift are complex, say experts. Part of it is bad publicity, with many men seemingly put off by scare stories about pain and unfounded worries about the implications for their sex lives, but there are also concerns that NHS funding for the procedure may be slipping away.
In 2004-5, there were 31,216 vasectomies carried out in England, but in 2014-15, that fell to just 11,113 according to NHS Digital. Image is definitely an issue, according to Genevieve Edwards of Marie Stopes, who says “the snip” is an offputting misnomer. “That is not what happens. If you were going to launch vasectomy as a product, you wouldn’t start there,” she said.
“People worry massively and have lots of misconceptions about it – how painful it is, the impact on their sex life, whether they will still have orgasms. People are really confused about it.”
The perceptions lag behind the reality, Edwards said. “There is no snipping at all. It is a 15-minute procedure with lots of anaesthetic and Bob’s your uncle.”