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Men’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Needs

Monday, June 12, 2017

Feature

Men’s sexual and reproductive health advice can be overlooked, with focus more often given to women’s more complex sexual and reproductive health.  

Men also face important decisions to stay safe, healthy and happy from their pre-teens, through to older age, which is why this Men’s Health Week, we bring you our lifetime guide to men’s sexual and reproductive health.

Pre-teens

  • Boys from 9 years old can get the HPV vaccine free from their doctor, or through the school vaccination programme in Year 8. The vaccine is very safe. It is most effective when given to young men before they become sexually active. HPV (human papilloma virus) affects most people at some point in their lives without them realising. In most cases it is harmless, but it can lead to genital warts and cause cancer, including mouth and throat cancers, and cancer of the penis and anus.
  • Boys may start puberty around 11 or 12 years old. Alongside physical changes, like developing a larger penis and testicles, a deeper voice, more facial hair, growing taller and more muscular, boys may also have wet dreams and more frequent erections. Talking about these changes with boys before they happen will avoid them feeling confused or embarrassed about what is happening to them.  

Teens/Young Adults

  • Young men may need information and support deciding when or if to have sex, and help understanding their sexual identity and sexual feelings.
  • They also need support building communication skills, to help them talk about their health and wellbeing, as well as talking with their partners about mutual consent and respect, healthy relationships, and safer sex.
  • It may be at this age that young men decide to start being sexually active.  If he is having sexual intercourse with a female, he will likely want to think about preventing pregnancy. Condoms are the only (non-permanent) method of contraception available for men, however he might like to talk to his partner about her contraception to increase their protection, and go with her to appointments or help share the costs of any contraception she needs.
  • Taking care of his sexual health is important. Whether he is having sex with females or males, using condoms and having regular STI tests will prevent the spread of STIs.
  • If a young man didn’t get the HPV vaccine when he was younger, he can still take advantage of the free vaccination programme until he is 26 by contacting his GP or some Family Planning clinics.
  • Men aged 15-39 are the most at-risk age group for developing testicular cancer. Regularly self-checking their testicles will help men catch any unusual changes. Early detection is the best way to beat testicular cancer.
  • Transmen are advised to have cervical smears every three years from age 20 for cancer prevention.

Adulthood

  • Choosing a permanent method of contraception is a good idea for couples who have completed their families and don’t want to worry about contraception. Vasectomy is an excellent option, as it is quick, affordable, and very effective.
  • Remember that women can still be fertile for one to two years after menopause, so men who are having sex with women of this age, may still need to think about contraception.
  • Male fertility also declines with age, as the quantity and quality of sperm gradually decreases.
  • STIs are a risk at any age, so continue to use condoms even if conceiving isn’t possible.

Older age

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer for in men in New Zealand, but it mostly affects men over 65. If, in older age, men find they are having problems weeing (more often, difficulties starting and stopping, and getting up lots in the night) and/or have pain in the lower back, hips or ribs, they should visit their doctor.
  • It is normal and healthy to continue intimate relationships into older age. There are ways to help manage any physical impacts of ageing on sexual activity. Talk to your doctor or to Family Planning.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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