Getting a vasectomy isn’t something men usually think to do with some of their buddies.
But that’s what three Southern California fathers did.
Paul Diaz, Basilio Santangelo, and John Lambrechts went to the same doctor on the same day to have back-to-back-to-back vasectomies.
The men have two children each. They said part of the reason for their decision was to take responsibility for their family planning after their wives had done the giving birth part.
Basilio Santangelo, John Lambrechts, and Paul Diaz at their vasectomy appointments. Image source: UCLA Health
“I didn't want my wife to have to go back on birth control because I know there's a lot of issues with it. So then I thought I would take one for the team and I decided I would do it,” Lambrechts told Healthline.
“My wife, Sabrina, already went through a lot giving birth,” added Santangelo, “and so I figured it's an easier option for me to do this.”
The trio also did the appointments together as a way to spotlight the low percentage of men in the United States who get vasectomies.
“It's not something to be ashamed of, and on the contrary, it's you being responsible,” Diaz told Healthline.
Not part of U.S. culture
A 2015 report by the United Nations showed that 1 in 10 men in the United States get vasectomies.
That’s half the rate of men in Canada and the United Kingdom.
The low percentage comes despite the fact vasectomies are a significantly easier medical operation than tubal ligation or other procedures that women go through.
Vasectomies are an outpatient procedure and are performed at a doctor’s office under local anesthesia.
The operation generally takes less than 30 minutes and the recovery time is usually a few days.
Vasectomies also have a high success rate.
Sterilization procedures for women, on the other hand, are usually performed at a hospital or surgical center.
They’re invasive surgery that’s done under general anesthesia.
The recovery is longer and usually requires an overnight stay after the operation.
Dr. Jesse Mills, the urologist and director of the men’s clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who did the procedure on the three fathers, said it makes senses for men to be the ones to undergo the surgery.
He said part of the reason men don’t get vasectomies in the United States is that the practice is much more engrained in other industrialized nations.
“In other countries, it’s such a part of the norm,” Mills told Healthline.
He noted that men in the United States don’t even go in for regular checkups.
“This is part of a public health issue as well,” he said. “This is a huge part of how guys look at healthcare.”
Not a problem in Alaska
Dr. John Cullen delivers babies in the coastal community of Valdez in eastern Alaska.
He also performs vasectomies. He’s done hundreds of them in the past 25 years.
Cullen told Healthline he wasn’t surprised by the low percentage of U.S. men getting vasectomies.
But he said that’s not the case in the rugged town of Valdez.
“It’s seems easier for men up here to do it,” said Cullen, who is a board member for the American Academy of Family Physicians. “They may not be as worried about their masculinity.”
Another reason, Cullen says, is he makes birth control part of the discussion when parents come in to see him in the initial weeks after a child is born.
“It’s a good environment to have the discussion,” he said. “It’s a teachable moment.”
Cullen has also done outreach to the community to educate people about vasectomies. He even occasionally offers free vasectomies as part of events such as the Valentine’s Day Dance at Prince William Sound College.
He tells men it’s an easy and effective form of birth control.
“There’s not a lot of long-term consequences,” Cullen said. “It’s an ideal form of contraception.”
The long-time physician also emphasizes to men the importance of doing their part.
“I think it’s important for men to take responsibility for their own contraception. It’s part of being an adult,” Cullen said. “I don’t think it’s fair for women to have all the responsibility on this.”
Especially considering how easy the procedure is for men compared with women.
“For men not to step up to the plate is really fairly wimpy,” Cullen said.
Doing their part
Diaz, Santangelo, and Lambrechts did not wimp out.
The three men, who call themselves the “vascateers,” had all decided they were only going to have two children.
Lambrechts thought of the surgery first.
“I heard the surgery was a quick recovery, and she had already been through childbirth, so that was my contribution,” he told Healthline.
When they heard about Lambrechts’ plan, his two fellow fathers decided to join him.
Dr. Jesse Mills talks with Paul Diaz before his vasectomy Image source: UCLA Health
“We are a very close group of friends,” said Santangelo. “Our kids were born months apart. We've traveled together before kids, and now with kids, and we've shared some pretty awesome milestones together [but] we never thought we'd share this!”
All three men said the outpatient surgery was easier than they’d thought it’d be.
“The procedure was done on a Friday afternoon, and by Sunday I was OK, and went to brunch with my family,” said Santangelo.
The trio decided to get the operation done right before the holidays since there would be plenty of sports on television while they recovered.
They aren’t the first men to think of this strategy.
Several studies have shown an uptick in vasectomies each year right before the NCAA basketball tournament in March.
The idea is you can recover while watching college basketball all day long.
Binging on sports, though, wasn’t the main motivation for the three friends.
“I heard the surgery was a quick recovery and [my wife] had already been through childbirth, so that was my contribution,” said Lambrechts.
“We feel very blessed with the two girls we have,” added Diaz. “We're getting up there in the years and we're very comfortable with the two girls we have, so we just decided we didn't want any surprises down the road.”
“Guys don't really talk about this kind of thing that much,” noted Santangelo. “For us, we're all friends and are open with each other.”