Amidst the ongoing pandemic, the city has witnessed a 90 per cent drop in the number of vasectomy and tubectomy cases compared to 2019. According to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) data, 17,659 women and 116 men had undergone tubectomy and vasectomy in 2019-20, which dropped to 116 women and 11 men until November this year. Health officials have attributed this drop to the nationwide lockdown and fear of contracting the virus. Moreover, there is a misconception of vasectomy amongst men due to which they do not come forward.
Senior health officials said, amidst the pandemic, many family planning campaigns of the central and state government have taken a backseat. Its impact is seen on the data of vasectomy and tubectomy. “The data revealed by the civic body is at its all time low since 2015, which is the matter of concern. Moreover, various initiatives have been taken to promote vasectomy, but the results are the same,” said an official.
In contrast, health officials say, every year, over 20,000 women undergo tubectomies, making the ratio of male-female sterilisation ratio 1:20. “Despite providing incentives, men do not come forward because they fear it might impact their manhood and sexuality. Religious beliefs are another hurdle,” he said.
More worryingly, the BMC has seen a drop in the number of no scalpel vasectomy (NSV) procedures (a permanent method of male sterilisation). In NSV, doctors first numb the scrotum with local anaesthesia and then make a small perforation in the skin of the scrotum to reach the vas deferens (the tubes carrying sperm from the testicles). These tubes are then either tied or sealed.
Dr Mangla Gomare, executive health officer, BMC, said the numbers have fallen drastically this year due to COVID-19. Moreover owing to the misconceptions about vasectomy, men are not willing to go under the knife. “People from poor economic backgrounds think vasectomy could affect their health, masculinity or reproductive abilities. However, this is completely wrong. We have specifically started using the no scalpel vasectomy (NSV) technique, as this advanced procedure involves minimum bleeding and stitching. Also, people living in the slums often think that women should undergo sterilisation, not men,” she said.
Moreover, since unlocking has begun, they have started all the procedures of vasectomy and tubectomy. Still people are hesitant to come forward. “We are trying to create as many awareness campaigns for these sterilisation processes so that more numbers of people should come forward. Moreover, we expect there will be a surge in numbers by the end of this year,” she added.
However, activists and experts blame the BMC’s family welfare department for failing to raise awareness. “The promotional activities of the family welfare department have been stalled. Earlier, they would paste pamphlets or display boards on the need for sterilisation and family planning. But now, these programmes have been stopped. How will people get to know about them?” asked activists.