Category: male birth control

There’s a New Plan to Make Male Birth Control a Reality

Preventing Pregnancy

The US National Institutes of Health and the Population Council are set to run a clinical trial for a promising new form of male birth control. 420 couples from the UK, Sweden, Italy, Chile, Kenya, and several medical facilities in the US will test out the contraceptive, once the proper permissions have been acquired.

This birth control comes in the form of a gel that’s applied to the shoulders once a day. The gel contains progestin, which impedes the production of sperm, and testosterone, to counteract reduced levels of the hormone.

A pilot trial found that the contraceptive was able to reduce sperm counts to one million per millimeter or less — which is generally accepted as the level at which sperm production is being suppressed — among 89 percent of participants. It’s thought that noncompliance might explain some portion of the remaining 11 percent.

The Trouble with Testosterone

Last year, a method of male birth control administered via a bimonthly injection proved to be effective. However, a clinical study was brought to an end ahead of time when 20 subjects began to experience side effects including mood changes, erectile dysfunction, and pain. One participant found that their sperm levels were still subnormal four years after receiving the injection.

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One of the biggest difficulties in creating new forms of male birth control is establishing a way of suppressing sperm production without causing negative effects related to a lack of testosterone. This is why a pill isn’t feasible — men would have to take several capsules a day, or the hormone would leave their body too quickly.

A gel application allows testosterone to enter the bloodstream at a steady rate, without unintentionally promoting sperm production in the testes. As a result, there are high hopes that this method could succeed where others have failed.

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When Will the First Male Contraceptive Pill Be Publicly Available?

Competition for Condoms

Setting aside the issue of cost and insurance coverage, these days there are many options for birth control — for women, that is. Since the first birth control for women went on the market in 1960, scientists have come up with a variety of pills, inserts, and implants women can choose from for contraceptive purposes. Men, on the other hand, are much more restricted in their options.

When Will the First Male Contraceptive Pill Be Publicly Available?
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Many are calling for more options for male birth control, both as a way to both give men more control over their fertility and to lessen the burden on women to deal with the responsibility and side effects of contraceptives by themselves. However, innovation in this area has been slow, and a recent attempt was not very promising. We asked Futurism readers when we can expect a version of “the pill” for men.

Apparently, very soon. Almost 80 percent of respondents believe a birth control pill will be available for men sometime during the 2020s. Reader Alejandro Baquero-Lima wrote he thinks the 2030s might be a little more feasible to ensure any kinks in the pharmacology will be worked out. “The male body is very different to that of the female body,” Baquero-Lima wrote. “Therefore, the contraceptive will have to make sure to react accordingly. But it will be coming.”

What The Experts Have to Say

Baquero-Lima is right in that scientists have found designing contraception for men a challenge. “Men make 1,000 sperm every second,” said John Amory, a male reproductive specialist at the University of Washington (UW), Seattle, in an interview with Seeker. “It’s proven to be a lot more difficult to turn that degree of production off compared to one egg a month.”

But that hurdle hasn’t stopped researchers from pursuing potential contraceptives for men. One promising form of birth control in development, put in place by an injection, is 99 percent effective for more than 10 years after a single shot. Researchers have also recently discovered that two known compounds might act as “molecular condoms.” These projects and others in the drug-development pipeline have made Stephanie Page, professor of metabolism and endocrinology at UW, optimistic that we may see a birth control pill for men in about a decade.

“There are a number of targets that are being actively pursued: sperm motility, sperm-egg fusion, and various aspects of sperm development,” Page said in an interview with Endocrine News. “Thus, the 10-year benchmark that we have talked about for a few years now looks more promising than in the past.”

See all of the Futurism predictions and make your own predictions here.

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