Done Having Kids? These Male Contraceptions Could Be an Alternative to Vasectomy
In the 1994 comedy film Junior, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays research scientist who becomes the world’s first pregnant man in order to test a drug he designs for expectant mothers. In 2009, Thomas Beatie, a transgender who is legally a man, gave birth to a healthy baby girl in 2007 and has since had two more children.
But what if the average Joe could get pregnant? Would a male birth control pill have been invented and perfected long ago? We will never know, but right now clinical studies are taking place that look pretty promising in terms of us having a readily-available and effective oral male contraceptive. Sure, vasectomies have been around for decades, but most guys never consider such a thing – scalpels and male parts usually don’t go together very well.
Pretty much nothing has changed for our XY-chromosome friends in ages. Sexually active, heterosexual men have had few options to control their own fertility. There’s the aforementioned scary snip, cumbersome condoms, or the pretty-much-useless pullout method. But since the Pill has been so effective for women, it seems logical (and only fair) that men have the same option.
Taking a tablet twice a day seems easy enough, but the guys who took part in the small clinical trial found out there are side-effects such as lethargy, decreased libido, and weight-gain. (Welcome to our world, bro!)
Yes, you read that correctly. The latest male Pill needs to be swallowed twice daily. “That’s critical for people being able to use it effectively,” says Dr. Stephanie Page, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington and the newest study’s senior researcher.
It’s still being perfected and will probably take a long time to become readily available, but did you know that is only one of three male contraceptive methods being tested right now? In addition to the Pill (and an injectable similar to Depo), there’s a topical gel that blocks sperm production, and a nonsurgical vasectomy.
One of the major challenges is overcoming biology. “The male produces hundreds of millions of sperms every day, and when the ejaculate comes out, there are 250 million sperm,” says Michael Skinner, a reproductive biologist who studies male contraceptives at Washington State University. “We could probably get away with a tenth of that and still be fertile.” Whereas women only produce one or two eggs a month.
Here’s a quick look at the leading trio of baby-blockers for men being studied right now:
As stated above, one little pill fighting against millions of sperms is a losing battle. That’s why in clinical trials the subjects had to down two tablets per day. The drug works in similar fashion to the female equivalent – by tricking the body. But it has taken years of tweaking and trial-and-error since its debut in 1961 to adjust the Pill for women. “When the female pill was introduced, the doses of hormones were higher than they are now and the side effects were much greater,” Dr. Page says. “So, the bar is higher in terms of where we need to be to get something into the market. The goal is to develop something for men that is essentially side-effect free.”
This is different from spermicide that goes into the female just prior to intercourse. This gel – called Nestorone-Testosterone – but not yet on the market, is applied daily to a man’s arms and shoulders. Through this topical application, the gonadotropin hormones responsible for stimulating testosterone production in the testes is shut down.
In a 2012 six-month long study funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the gel suppressed sperm levels in nearly 90 percent of men to 1 million per milliliter or less — the amount needed to prevent pregnancy — with few side effects. Now a major, multicenter trial involving 420 couples is taking place and will go one for 12 months.
You may have heard of chemical castration, which is sometimes used to penalize and control chronic rapists, but this is not the same thing. The nonsurgical vasectomy is being developed in India. It is called RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) and while the name certainly isn’t catchy, the idea is. (The somewhat similar U.S. version is called The Dick-Click.)
The procedure is 98-percent effective at preventing pregnancy and has no major side effects, according to R. S. Sharma, head of reproductive biology and maternal health at the Indian Council of Medical Research, who has been studying this method for over a decade.
Instead of tying, cutting, or cauterizing the vas deferens, doctors inject a polymer gel into the to block sperm – and the treatment can be reversed with a shot that breaks down the balm.
What do you think of male contraception? Would you like to see a male birth-control method become widely available… and do you think guys would use it?health relationships