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bpas calls for more research into male contraception amid decline in vasectomies

bpas calls for more research into male contraception amid decline in vasectomies

The number of NHS vasectomies in England has fallen sharply over the last decade, latest official figures collated by bpas suggest.[1]  The decline may be one factor in the increase in abortions among older women over the same period.[2]

Data from the NHS Information Centre and Hospital Episodes Statistics (HES) show that the number of vasectomies in NHS hospitals or community contraception clinics fell by more than 50% between 2001/02 and 2011/12.

·         In 2001/02, there were 37,700 vasectomies performed

·         In 2011/12, there were 15,106 vasectomies performed

This year’s figures also represented a 16% decline from 2010/2011.  The numbers do not include procedures carried out in GP surgeries or independent clinics, but nevertheless provide important insight into changes in what is currently the only available male contraception beyond condoms.

The decline may be explained in part by restrictions on funding or greater emphasis by healthcare professionals on Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives for women who have completed their families, such as hormonal and copper coils. However reservations about having the “snip” may also be driven by an increasing awareness among men that a relationship may break down, amid the rise of second families.

The decline in vasectomies, one of the most effective forms of contraception, may be one reason for the recent increase in abortion rates among older women. The abortion rate for women over 30 rose by 10% between 2001 and 2011.  Countries with a low rate of vasectomy, such as France where the procedure was banned until 1999 and remains uncommon, have a relatively high rate of abortion amongst older women. England has historically had a high vasectomy rate, with around 16% of the male population under 70 having undergone the procedure, and a lower abortion rate among older women.

Ann Furedi, chief executive of bpas said:

“Vasectomy is a safe and reliable method that gives men the opportunity to play an active role in contraception.  It is disappointing that the only long term method which enables men to play this part is declining.  We must ensure that all couples who want to use this method can access it promptly on the NHS, while recognising that it won’t be for everyone. Creating more choice is vital. We sincerely hope that the research into creating a reversible male contraceptive that is currently underway results in a method that will have a real impact on the involvement of men in family planning.”

For more information please contact the bpas press office on 0207 612 0206 or 07788 725185 or email press@bpas.org

About bpas:

bpas supports reproductive choice and health by advocating and providing high quality, affordable services to prevent unwanted pregnancies with contraception or end them by abortion. We also offer a range of other reproductive health services.

bpas is Britain's largest single abortion provider, caring for around 55,000 women each year. It provides pregnancy testing, counselling, STI screening, contraception, sterilisation, vasectomy and vasectomy reversal through 36 consultation centres and 19 clinics located throughout the UK.

[1] The total number of vasectomies performed in hospitals and community contraceptive clinics is collated from the Hospital Episodes Statistics and the NHS Contraceptive Services report. In 2011/12,  the number of vasectomies performed in hospitals was 9606 - http://www.hesonline.nhs.uk/Ease/servlet/ContentServer?siteID=1937&categoryID=897 The NHS Contraceptive Services England, 2011-2012 states that the number of vasectomies performed in  community contraceptive clinics in 2011/12 was 5500- http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/nhscontra1112 This report also includes the total number of vasectomies performed 1997/1998 to 2010/2011.


[2] The abortion rate for women aged 30-44 was 9.1 per 1000 women in England and Wales in 2001. In 2011 it was 10 per 1000 women in England and Wales - https://www.wp.dh.gov.uk/transparency/files/2012/05/Commentary1.pdf