The world has seen several scientific and technological innovations over the years. But one area that has remained stagnant is male birth control. Who would’ve thought we’d have self-driving cars before we’d have a male alternative to the pill?
But times are changing, and researchers will conduct the largest clinical trial of hormonal male contraception this year, which will include more than 400 couples from six countries. The men in the trial will rub a gel, which contains synthetic hormones, into their upper arms and shoulders once a day, and researchers will track the gel’s ability to prevent pregnancy in their partners.
So male birth control is as simple as applying sunscreen? Kind of.
The experimental gel contains a synthetic progestin called nestorone, which blocks the testes from making enough testosterone to produce sperm. The gel also has synthetic testosterone to counteract any hormonal imbalances from the progestin. Just like the pill, guys will have to use the gel daily for it to be effective at preventing pregnancy.
Improving on Past Attempts
This isn’t the first male birth control gel to be tested. A clinical trial in 2016 tested a different combination of progestin and testosterone. In that trial, men were given hormone injections every two months, and the shots were 96 percent effective at lowering sperm counts. But there were side effects.
The participants complained of mood swings, muscle pain, and other side effects, so the study ended early. In this trial, the gel will contain much less synthetic testosterone, which researchers hope will prevent the side effects of the previous trial.
The trial will last a year, as couples will use the gel as their only form of contraception. Even if the drug is successful, it could take at least five years for the FDA to approve it.
Time for Guys to Step Up
There have been many attempts at finding an alternative to birth control pills over the years. Simply put, the burden of contraception has been on women’s shoulders for far too long.
About 73 percent of men rely on their female partner to use contraception, and tubal ligation is performed three times more often than vasectomies.
Though female sterilization is more common, vasectomies tend to be safer, less expensive, and more reliable. So if you can’t wait five years for this gel to enter the market, a vasectomy might be the best choice for permanent birth control that doesn’t burden your wife.
Despite stories of post-vasectomy pregnancies, the procedure has a very low failure rate. Besides, there’s a pretty simple way to know if it worked…test your sperm. These days, sperm tests can be done right at home with SpermCheck, an over-the-counter test that verifies your sterility.
Breakthroughs in male birth control might finally be on the way. Researchers will eagerly await the results of this next trial, and soon women may be able to ditch the pill and guys can pick up “the gel.”