When it comes to birth control, the bulk of responsibility falls on women. Hormonal contraception, such as the pill, shot, and patch, barrier methods, such as diaphragms and cervical caps, along with spermicides, fertility awareness, and other methods are all meant for women. The only birth control options for men are condoms and sterilization. However, for the first time, a male option of hormonal birth control has been tested on humans.
A male contraceptive shot is currently in development. Similar to the female contraceptive shot, the male version involves changing the amounts of sex hormones produced by men. Men with normal sperm counts were given injections of progesterone and testosterone, and monitored until their sperm counts were below one million (considered low). A sample group of 270 men between the ages of 18-45 in long term, monogamous relationships participated in these studies. Only 20 men dropped out of the study due to side effects – typically acne and mood changes (similar to side effects from female hormonal birth control). Participants were asked to use the shot as their only form of birth control. Overall, only 4 unintended pregnancies resulted; approximately a 96% effectiveness.
One concern with male birth control is reversibility. Condoms are often preferred to sterilization because men can easily choose whether or not they’d like to use them. Furthermore, many early studies on male contraceptives were stopped because they appeared to cause infertility in rodents. Only eight men in the present study had not returned to normal sperm counts after one year. The exact times it took men to achieve their pre-study sperm counts was unreported, and was likely varied between subjects. This is comparable to the 96% of women who are able to become pregnant within a year after stopping hormonal birth control.
It is important to note that this study represented perfect use of contraception. Perfect use of birth control is always more effective than typical use. Men would receive these shots in a doctor’s office every eight weeks – however, if a subject were to delay or miss a shot, the method may no longer be effective. The discrepancy between perfect use and typical use cannot be accurately determined until a treatment is available for public consumption. Until then, this method marks a substantial leap in ending the discrepancy in birth control methods.
For more information on male contraceptives, click here.
Editor: Summer Lee