Everything You Need to Know About Male Birth Control
Everything You Need to Know About Male Birth Control
Male birth control has been something of an oxymoron for the past 50 years, while women have fought for their rights to access and use contraceptives, men have been relatively indifferent. But, as more men become aware of the fact that preventing pregnancy is on them as well as on women, and that condoms are only 98% effective when used completely correctly (which they often are not, bringing effectiveness rates down to 90-92% for many) and even female birth control isn’t completely effective, many men are starting to look for their own contraceptive methods.
Today, there are no real non-surgical long-term birth control options for men on the market. Yes, men can choose to go for a vasectomy, which isn’t always reversible, or they have to rely on condoms as their only option for preventing unwanted pregnancy. This can be a hassle in long-term relationships, and for party goers who frequently drink, can often be forgotten in the moment. While naysayers have argued for abstinence for years, history has proven that this isn’t a successful tactic. Men need control over whether they can or cannot have children as much as women do, especially as they are increasingly pushed into taking active roles in caring for and rearing children. While this shift is an important one, it does make it more crucial for men to have control over their own reproductive ability, rather than forcing a partner to take sole responsibility through her own birth control or using condoms.
Luckily, there are several male birth control options in the works and some of them could be on the market in a few years. While a few years is still a long time considering that statistics show that between 40 and 45% of all pregnancies are unwanted, it is a huge step in the right direction.
Male Birth Control Shot
The male birth control shot functions similarly to the female depo provera and provides an injection based hormonal contraceptive designed to reduce sperm count and therefore pregnancy. The study was undertaken by a combination of research centers and universities under the United Nations Development Program in the USA and Europe and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Medicine. Like depo provera, the shot is a combination shot (including 200-mg norethisterone enanthate combined with 1000-mg testosterone undecanoate), administered every 8 weeks (vs every 12 for depo provera), and takes effect within 12 weeks. The shot effectively suppresses sperm production with 95% efficiency, or about equivalent to most female birth control. This means that during the 56 week test period, 4 pregnancies occurred among partners of 266 male participants (there were 320 total male participants). However, many participants experienced mild mood disorders as well as acne and increased libido. However, except for increased libido, these side effects are very common in women’s birth control solutions, thanks to the necessity of using hormones.
The result of the 56 week study, which was conducted in ten study centers, showed that the male birth control shot offers nearly complete contraceptive that is completely reversible, and comparatively good to other contraceptives. While this study was cut short at 56 weeks after many men dropepd out due to acne and mood disorders, 75 of the remaining participants suggested that they would use the shot if it were on the market.
Male Birth Control Nasal Spray
John Howl, of Wolverhampton University says that the methods he is testing allow for an almost instant contraceptive using what would eventually become a nasal spray. His research stems from the Aveiro University in Portugal, where researchers demonstrated that certain peptides have an almost instant reaction on sperm cells. So far, the nasal spray is not in clinical trials and is instead in lab tests, and won’t actually be tested on live animals until 2019. However, in lab tests, it does provide instant effects, and works for up to 2 days in suppressing sperm. If fully developed, this could give men instant options comparable to the female pill.
Synthetic Testosterone Male Birth Control Pill
There are several studies around the globe testing different variations of the male combination birth control pill using synthetic testosterone and progesterone or other steroids to inhibit sperm production. These pills are in various stages of testing, with multiple human trials including some in stage 3. However, there are no viable options set to hit the market, mostly because pills include side effects including mood swings which can be harmful.
Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance (RISUG)
Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance is a birth control method in stage three of clinical trials in India. The method was developed under a team led by Dr. Sujoy K Guha at the Indian Institute of Technology and involves the insertion of a chemical agent into the vas deferens of the penis. This chemical agent then sterilizes sperm as it is produced, but can easily be removed when the man wants to have children.
To date over 250 men have received the injection, with only one unplanned pregnancy among them, and it was later discovered that his injection was completed improperly. Of the 250, 15 have had injections for over 10 years, making the contraceptive incredibly effective. While the study was halted in 2002 due to concerns, it was restarted again in 2011, and is not still moving forward with trials. However, this option likely won’t be available to men for an excess of 10 years.
Vas-occlusive contraception is a total method option for men which is similar to the RISUG. This method involves stopping sperm at the vas deferens using clips, plugs, hormones, chemicals, or other solutions. These include vas-occlusive plugs, invasive threads, and even gel, all of which are in various stages of testing.
Male birth control is not yet on the market, but there are over a dozen options being tested, some of which are nearing the end of clinical trials. Some of these could hit the market within 5 or 10 years, allowing men to take control of their reproductive rights and their lives. While almost all of the options have side effects, all female birth control also comes with side effects, so these shouldn’t inhibit adoption as much as many people think.
What do you think? Do men need a viable, non-permanent and non-surgical birth control option? We think they do.