What is your contraception of choice? It’s not a question men hear very often.
“I wasn’t trained to ask the question,” said Dr. John De Caro, a urologist at the VA Augusta Health Care System who is passionate about reproductive autonomy, gender equality, and combating misinformation. “I’m trying to help change the culture.”
It’s not an expectation for doctors to ask the question nor for men to seek reproductive guidance after they reach puberty.
“It’s time to help close the gender gap in responsibility for contraception which disproportionately burdens women,” De Caro said. “I seek to empower men to understand their options in preventing unplanned pregnancies, particularly following the overturning of Roe versus Wade.”
At present, contraception for men includes methods such as abstinence, vasectomy, or condoms. De Caro’s innovative, three-pronged approach will tackle the limitations of the male contraception toolbox.
He’s on a mission to engage primary care doctors to have contraception conversations during primary care visits. Also, he started a Veteran telehealth group for men to learn about vasectomies. Lastly, he is designing an innovative, digital tool to help guide them through the decision-making process. From there, De Caro can determine eligibility and fast-track patients for the procedure.
The scale is tipped when it comes to which gender holds the most responsibility to prevent pregnancies. De Caro says women undergo 40 percent more tubal ligation surgeries than men undergo vasectomies, even though tubal litigation is a far more invasive and risky procedure.
“If a tubal ligation fails, it leads to an ectopic pregnancy, which is considered a non-viable pregnancy that threatens the life of the woman,” said De Caro.
De Caro sits on the board of directors for Male Contraceptive Initiative, a non-profit that provides funding and advocacy support for the research and development of new methods of non-hormonal, reversible male birth control. In addition to long-acting reversible male contraceptive methods, this also includes on-demand, short-acting methods.
De Caro’s three-pronged male contraceptive approach is a Spark-Seed-Spread project through the Veterans Health Administration Innovators Network. He will spend the next fiscal year exploring, developing, and testing his digital tool with Veteran feedback using Human-Centered Design.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of World Vasectomy Day, which falls on Nov. 18. It’s time to talk to your VA provider about your contraception options, including vasectomy.
VIDEO: Learn how a vasectomy procedure is performed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxxl1YzuTPU