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“My Only Regret Is I Didn’t Do It Earlier”

A Husband’s Story of Vasectomy

Seid Mohammad was 40 years old and the father of six children when he learned about permanent methods of family planning. He wishes he had known about them sooner.

Family planning used to be a taboo topic in Ambasel Woreda, in the Amhara Region of Ethiopia, and there was much that Seid, a community chairman, did not know. He did not know that some women were using family planning secretly. He did not know that his wife, Atsede, was one of them.

Eventually, when Seid learned that his wife had begun using oral contraceptives, and that she believed they were causing health problems, he asked her why she continued taking the pills. As Seid recalls, she felt that “illness was better than becoming pregnant and having too many children.”

Out of concern for his wife, Seid began using condoms. Then, at a community meeting on HIV, Seid learned about permanent methods of family planning—female and male sterilization. When he asked for more information, the facilitator referred him to a local health professional. Then he went home and talked with his wife about what he had learned, asking if she would consider having a tubal ligation. But Atsede was hesitant, so Seid decided to find out more about vasectomy. After getting his many questions answered and being reassured that vasectomy would not negatively affect the couple’s relationship, Seid decided that he wanted to have it done. The volunteer helped arrange an appointment at a hospital where EngenderHealth’s Access to Better Reproductive Health Initiative (ABRI) had trained staff to perform the procedure. On the day of the procedure, Seid talked at length with the hospital staff. “They reassured me, and the thing they stressed very strongly was that the procedure would not be reversible.” The procedure itself, Seid recollects, was “very quick. It was done in 15 minutes and it did not hurt at all. It hasn’t affected my strength. It hasn’t affected anything.”

Seid remains happy with his decision. “It really is a dream come true,” he says with satisfaction. “We are not worried about another pregnancy. My only regret is that I didn’t do it earlier. I have six children, but my ideal number would have been two or three children. I wish this could have happened much longer ago. My wife may not have been sick. My family would be better off.”

Now Seid urges other men to consider vasectomy. “I enjoy explaining the benefits to them. I tell them to discuss it with their wives. I explain the importance of having few children— that this will only strengthen their relationships and their love.”

Seid talks with men in private, but he also shares his perspectives in public settings, such as at community dialogue sessions. These have recently been organized by the health volunteer in his village, with training and tools developed by EngenderHealth and a local organization, the Amhara Development Association. The hour-long discussions provide an opportunity for Seid to share his personal experience with other men in his community.

“Some people were taken by surprise by my revelation,” Seid acknowledges, but he notes that such public discussions are an important way for people to learn from each other. As a result of his outspokenness, he says, two other men in the community are seriously considering vasectomy as well.

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