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Vasectomies on the rise in France, more men opting for the snip

For various reasons both practical and ethical, there has been a massive increase in the irreversible operation

Urologists and associations credit the rise to greater access to information quashing recurrent cliches about vasectomy Pic: Motortion Films / Shutterstock

More and more French men are undergoing a vasectomy operation as an alternative solution to contraception in their relationship.

23,300 operations were performed in 2021, according to figures provided by the French healthcare system organisation, a twelvefold increase over the last eleven years when only 1,908 operations were undergone.

Read more: Fertility crisis? France’s birth rate hits near 30-year low

Vasectomy consists of cutting a man's ductus deferens – the canals transporting sperm – to avoid spermatozoids reaching the ejaculatory duct.

Urologists and associations credit the rise to greater access to information quashing recurrent cliches about vasectomy. But it also coincides with a greater rise of feminism beliefs among late 30-year-old men. 

"I carry out two operations a week without any advertising from the cabinet," said Dr Frédéric Obadia, a urologist at Uronice’s clinic in Nice, who estimates that the overall number of operations has jumped from two to 3,000 every year.

Facts and figures

Operations steadily increased from 2010 to 2020 – only levelling off during the pandemic – to jump from 13,000 to 23,000 from 2020 to 2021, according to figures from Assurance Maladie. France has allowed operations since 2001. 

French figures cannot compare with Anglo-Saxon countries, however. Between 175,000 and 350,000 vasectomies are performed each year in the United States according to The Lancet in a 2015 article. 

One out of every four Australian men have resorted to vasectomy and Great Britain has a waiting-list, with the longest sometimes exceeding two years such as in the Isle Of Man, reported the BBC.

While most of Dr Obadia’s clientele has been Anglo-Saxons living along the Mediterranean coast, more and more people from Latin countries have crossed the door of his cabinet. All sorts of patient profiles have been treated at Uronice, ranging from 25-year-olds who do not want children to 60-year-olds. “It is not only patients in their late 30s who have had three children already,” he noted.

The shifting landscape of contraception

David Sutton, 42, a business intelligence coordinator in an IT company, went to the Uronice clinic for a vasectomy. He said: “My girlfriend was due to have her IUD contraceptive renewed. We decided it was my turn to have a procedure to do something.” 

“Let’s just cut the problem at the source,” he laughed. Mr Sutton said he never wanted children.– the main reason behind patients’ choice to undergo vasectomy, two urologists told The Connexion, with many men turning the table on who has to carry the burden of contraception.

The operation is simple, has barely no side-effects, a short recovery time and no detrimental effects on sexuality – all of which favoured the spread of ‘word of mouth’ among the population, doctors explained.

While operations are on the rise, doctors are still allowed to turn down surgery requests such as in the case for Alexis Lesueur, an urologist in Paris who carries out five operations a month. The doctor refuses 20-year-old patients who consider that it is “unfair to impose a child to live in such a world,” he said, finding such a reason “absurd.” 

But he also warns patients in their 30s that “live in a fairytale world thinking they will stay with their wife for the rest of their lives,” he said, adding that “There is no guarantee that they will not file for divorce and find love with another woman willing to have children.”

“I try to drive patients into a corner to let them be aware that no longer being able to have children can become a problem,” he said. Dr Lesueur said he was confronted once with a patient who regretted his choice. “That was one time too many,” he added.

The Ministry of Health and doctors recommend taking a spermogram test three months after the operation is concluded to assess the disappearance of spermatozoa. The use of a contraceptive during sexual activities is advised during that period.

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