Why Aren't Men More Involved?
It's funny: We all know that it takes both sperm and an egg to have a baby.
However, when it comes down to it, most of the burden for contraception and
pregnancy -- key components of reproductive health -- falls on women.
Why Aren't Men More Involved?
According to a survey done by the Kaiser Family Foundation
called "Men's Role in Preventing Pregnancy," both men and women agreed
that women feel more responsible for the children they bear than do men. Both
men and women also said that women have the greater influence on a couple's
decision to have a child.
At least one-third of men and 35 percent of women surveyed
said that men today feel left out when it comes to birth control and
contraception. In fact, more than half the men said they don't know a lot about
contraceptive options, with one in five saying they know little-to-nothing
about the subject.
Why Men Might Want to Be Involved
There are several obvious reasons why a man might want to be
more involved in reproductive health decision making. The first is that if his
partner gets pregnant, he's the father -- a role that carries paternal
obligations and responsibilities.
Another reason is that in many cultures, even though women
are expected to make these kinds of decisions, they may not have enough
information or control over the final outcome. Educating men may be
particularly crucial to prevent unintended pregnancies and improve reproductive
Men aren't considered an integral part of reproductive
health care. Since services are not geared to men's needs, men aren't likely to
take responsibility for their or their partner's contraceptive choices.
Lastly, with male condoms being the best form of prevention
(other than abstinence) against sexually transmitted diseases, men have an
incentive to become active participants in their sexual and reproductive
Reproductive Services Targeted to Men
Sexual-health clinics, obstetrician offices, hospitals, and
family-planning services have traditionally been focused on women. Major
barriers to including men in reproductive-health services are the
- Limited funding for male services
- Predominantly female staff
- Negative staff attitudes
- Lack of staff training for serving men's needs
From another angle, there's no obvious reason for men to
visit family-planning clinics. Women are drawn into the health-care system out
of a need to get a prescription for contraception. Male-based contraceptive
methods are condoms and vasectomy. Condoms are available over-the-counter in
many stores; only a small number of men have vasectomies, and then only
Most men and women say that men should play more of a role
in choosing and using contraception. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation
survey, two-thirds of men said that they would be willing to take male birth
control pills; 43 percent would take Depo-Provera shots and 36 percent would
get Norplant if they were available for men. Depo-Provera and Norplant are
birth control solutions available to women that are effective for several
months at a time.
While scientists are busy working on the "male
pill," men can still be proactive about reproductive health. Web sites
devoted to birth control and contraception, as well as other reference books
available in bookstores, can also play a role in educating men about birth
And of course, there's always communication. Men: It's time
for you to initiate the talk with your partners about reproductive health. It's
sure to be welcomed with a warm embrace.