According to Sujoy Guha, a biochemical engineer currently working to perfect an effective male birth control option, “Why should the burden [of birth control] be borne by the female only? There has to be an equal partnership.”
In the medical field, and in most cultures, contraception is viewed largely as a woman's issue. Lisa Campo-Engelstein, assistant professor at the Alden Medical College wrote in the AMA's Journal of Ethics, "For women, the FDA weighs the harms of pregnancy against the side effects of birth control, but since there are no physical side effects to pregnancy for men, it’s not seen as a health issue."
Most drug companies view birth control as a "solved" problem even though current methods available for women are often costly and come with undesirable side effects. Dr. John Hesla, a reproductive endocrinologist at Oregon Reproductive Medicine, feels that in order for the FDA to approve a new male birth control option, it would have to be “…close to 100 percent effective, easy to administer, reversible, inexpensive, and have few or no side effects.” Sounds like a pretty tall order.
Mara Roth, MD, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, who researches male birth control has stated, "Men's anatomy is complicated. Women ovulate once a month, but guy's sperm production is constant. Men produce 1,000 sperm [or more] a second, and preventing the sperm from meeting an egg isn't easy."
Despite the obstacles standing in the way of developing safe and effective male contraceptives, many experts claim there are quite a few male birth control options that are on the cusp of being available to the general public, possibly as soon as 2018. Read on for 15 of them.
15 Injectable Gel
One might think that the most promising of all groundbreaking male contraceptives would come out of a large research facility. Instead, a small university in rural India seems to be making the greatest strides. After years of human trials, researchers have developed a male birth control option that could cost as little as $10 and provide years of fertility control.
The treatment, known as reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG), has been shown to be up to 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. How, exactly, does the it work? A polymer gel, the consistency of which has been compared to melted chocolate, is injected into tubes in the scrotum that carry sperm. The gel carries a positive charge that damages the heads and tails of sperm, which are negatively charged, causing them to become infertile. To reverse the treatment, and render sperm viable once again, a shot is used to break down the gel and allows a male’s reproductive system to function normally once again.
Sujoy Guha, the inventor of RISUG, has faced challenges when attempting to market the product. Why? According to Herjan Coelingh Bennink, a gynecology professor who helped develop the contraceptives Implanon and Cerazette as head of research and development in women’s health for Organon International from 1987 to 2000, “The fact that the big companies are run by white, middle-aged males who have the same feeling--that they would never do it--plays a major role. If those companies were run by women, it would be totally different.”
Convenience is key when it comes to birth control. Contraceptive options available for women are plentiful, and most are virtually hassle-free. The most convenient and least dangerous male birth control methods may be those that can be ingested by mouth and forgotten about for the remainder of the day. Ingestible birth control options don't involve medical procedures or pose risks of contaminating others.
H2-Gamendazole is a revolutionary ingestible option that, according to Joseph Tash, PhD, professor of and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, “prevents mature sperm from being produced.”
Tash stated that, in tests on animals, ''we can get not only 100% infertility, but full recovery of fertility.” This promising option almost seems too good to be true, and it might be. Not only has it never been tested on humans, long term side effects are not known, and it has not been confirmed that it is a reversible option when used on humans.
13 Topical Testosterone Gel
Researchers are working on perfecting a topical birth control gel for men. The formula for the gel contains a combination of progestin and testosterone, and, to be effective, is rubbed onto the arms of a male subject. According to Christina Wang, MD, professor of medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and the L.A. Biomedical Research Institute. “It suppresses the sperm output to very low.”
The gel was proven in studies to be up to 90 percent effective, which is comparable to many birth control options for women, some of which are only 91 percent effective. Side effects to the treatment include acne and weight gain. Additionally, it is believed that men who use this option would need to be extremely careful to ensure women and children are not exposed to the gel.
While more research is needed, it is possible that the formula could cause early puberty to be triggered in children and could cause excess body hair or acne in women who are exposed to the product.
12 Retinoic Acid Pill
Another contraceptive for men that may soon be available in pill form is a retinoic acid pill. How, exactly, does it work? It is a compound that prevents a form of vitamin A called retinoic acid from assisting in sperm production.
Gunda Georg, PhD, professor and head of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota presented the findings of the latest research on this method at the recent meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Diego. Many experts are hopeful it could be a viable option in the future. Another researcher and graduate student at the university, Jill Kyzer, has shared that this pill causes sperm to be “halted in the middle” of its production.
More research is needed to determine exactly how promising the retinoic acid pill will be as a form of contraception. At this point, tests have only been done in labs. Tests on animals and humans are still needed to determine its effectiveness, safety and reversibility.
Men may be reluctant to use birth control due to the many unknown negative side effects that could result. With so many male contraceptives untested and unproven, especially long-term, it is easy to see why some may be reluctant to consider using them.
Those who are wary of using hormones as a form of birth control due to possible negative side effects may be interested in using EP007 in the future. It is a non-hormonal birth control bill that was developed by Michael O'Rand, PhD, president of Eppin Pharma Inc.
This pill actually stops sperm from swimming, halting them in their journey towards the eggs they wish to fertilize. Much more research is still needed to determine whether or not this revolutionary option is a possibility. Once again, the reliability, side effects and reversibility of the product is still in question, but, if it is proven to be safe, it could be a very reliable contraceptive option for men in the future.
10 Dry Pill
Hate the laundry that’s often needed after spending time between the sheets? Fret no more! The dry-orgasm pill (sometimes also referred to as the “clean sheets pill”) is actually a blood pressure medication that has since been discontinued. The hormone-free pill works right away to shut off the muscles that propel semen. Studies have shown that it does not take-away from any other part of a sex act--including ejaculation.
Some drug companies are reluctant to use it, as they feel men might not like the fact that they don’t ejaculate during sex. It would, however, be an effective way to prevent pregnancy while also taking strides in the prevention of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Studies done on animals have proven the drug to be an effective contraceptive option, but more research is needed before it can be placed on the market.
Currently, doctors at King’s College and University College London are looking for funding to further research the effectiveness of this product.
Gandarusa has been used by people native to Indonesia for years as an herbal remedy for stress. It is made from a plant indigenous to the region called Justicia gendarussa. It was noticed that the supplement had the additional side effect of working as an effective male contraceptive.
Since this discovery, research has been done on the effectiveness of the plant and its safety. Ongoing studies have been done since 1985 in Indonesia, and, at the present time, the contraceptive option is in phase 3 of clinical trials.
Gandarusa is ingested in pill form daily. It is believed it works by taking away a sperm’s ability to penetrate an egg. Currently, no side effects have been reported, making it a promising option. However, more research needs to be done to determine its reversibility. In previous studies, of 300 men who participated, only one pregnancy was a result. In order for the product to become available in the United States, clinical trials on humans would first need to be conducted in the country.
Many feel contraceptives that don’t require daily attention are the ideal product, especially because men usually don't see doctors for reproductive health check-ups as often as women do. MENT is comparable to an IUD. The Population Council has employed a group of researchers to develop a product that can be implanted once and not worried about by a subject for some time afterwards.
MENT is an implant that lasts for one year once in place. It works by releasing a synthetic form of testosterone. It is believed the formula does not in any way slow down libido, but does greatly reduce sperm count over time. One year-long study of eleven men resulted in eight of them having zero sperm count at the end of the year. A few of the subjects still had limited sperm count months after the implants were taken out.
Once again, more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of MENT and how reversible the effects are over time. If it is proven safe, MENT could be a viable contraceptive solution for many men.
7 Hormone Injections
Some men might get a bit squeamish at the word injection, as it usually means a needle will be involved. Others may not mind a little poke every now and again if it means they will be getting a relatively safe and effective male birth control option in return.
Just like the aforementioned gel that has been proven to be an effective contraceptive, when testosterone is injected, it alters hormonal messaging, and, in return, lowers sperm production.
If an injection of testosterone is combined with progestogen, studies have shown that the results can be very effective in suppressing sperm concentration in nearly 90 percent of males. The side effects to this form of birth control are few, making it an option many may consider in the future. Currently, research is being done to determine which combination of progestin and testosterone would be the most effective when it comes to long lasting and reliable birth control.
Ultrasounds are often associated with pregnancy. Interestingly enough, they may also be one of the best ways to prevent a pregnancy from occurring. Therapeutic ultrasound, which is commonly used to treat injuries in the field of sports medicine, has also been proven to lower sperm count in animals and humans alike.
When the instruments used in therapeutic ultrasound are used to briefly massage the testes, the result is a reduced number of sperm. It has long been known by professionals in the field that heating the testes results in a lowered sperm count, and therapeutic ultrasound is one way to achieve warmth. Additionally, while no one has been able to determine why exactly, when ultrasound is used to produce warmth, the results are up to ten times more effective than when heat is used on its own.
This technique can result in contraception that lasts for as little as six weeks, and can also be permanent. The length of time depends on how long the testes are exposed, and how intense the heat is. At this point the procedure is too unreliable to be used, as it doesn’t guarantee either a reversible or a permanent solution.
Ajudin is a drug that is quite similar to lonidamine, a medication frequently used to treat cancer patients. It works as a contraceptive by causing immature sperm to be released. In cases of lonidamine use, there is quite a small gap between a dose that is an effective contraceptive, and a dose that is fatal.
This makes lonidamine a drug that is too risky to give to a healthy person, but ajudin has enough similarities to lonidamine to make it a promising contraceptive option that is much safer.
There are a few downsides to ajudin, however. It can only be administered by injection, and doesn't last for long, meaning frequent injections are needed in order for it to be effective. Presently, researchers are working on a version of the drug that doesn't require as many injections as the current formula.
If a miracle drug for male contraception exists, JQ1 could be it. Those looking for a male birth control option that is effective and reversible without being a hassle may have found what they've been searching for in JQ1. The medication is similar in make-up to popular drugs such as Valium and Xanax, but its effects are much different than those of the two aforementioned drugs.
JQ1 works by blocking a certain protein in the testes that has been determined to be necessary for sperm growth. The tests of this revolutionary drug on mice have produced some promising results.
Mice given this drug have shown a vast reduction in sperm count, with those that survive no longer swimming in a way that would render them able to complete their one mission in life: reach an egg, and fertilize it. JQ1 does not seem to inhibit sex drive, and, when the drug is no longer administered, the production of sperm quickly goes back to a normal amount.
According to Michael S. Zedalis, a.k.a. Dr. Condom, the senior vice president in charge of science and technology for the condom company Ansell Limited, over five billion condoms are sold every year. That's a lot of rubber, and a testament to how many men are willing to contribute when it comes to birth control.
Condoms may well-be the oldest form of male birth control. In fact, ancient hieroglyphics of males wearing what appear to be condoms have been found in Egypt. In the 1500s, men donned condoms made from animal bladders, intestines and even--yikes--metal. These male contraceptives were not necessarily in any way effective when it came to preventing pregnancy as they often tore or broke while being used. Then, Goodyear came out with the first rubber condom, and the world was changed forever.
Males between the ages of 18 and 24 are the most likely to use condoms, and 70 percent of all condoms purchased are bought by men. Not only are condoms a relatively cheap option, currently coming in at around $10.99 for a box of 12, they come in many textures, thicknesses and even flavors.
For those who don't mind a permanent birth control solution, getting a vasectomy may be the best option. The procedure for a vasectomy is quick and easy, and usually performed in a doctor's office.
Men are not rendered sterile right after the procedure, and should wait a few weeks to ensure the procedure has worked before engaging in activities that could make a baby. Most men who get the procedure experience only minor side effects such as slight swelling and bruising. Some experience pain in the scrotum, which usually goes away over time.
Some fear the procedure will increase a man's risk for developing prostate cancer, heart disease, stroke, or testicular cancer. Men may also worry that their sex drive will be weakened by the procedure. A study published in the Journal of Urology in 2012 found that the procedure does not increase the risk of any of any particular disease or alter a man's libido.
1 Other Options
There are, of course, a few other options men have to choose from when it comes to their role in preventing pregnancy. They can use the good ole' pull-out method, which has been proven time and time again to be less-than-effective. Abstinence is another option guaranteed to be an effective, if not very popular form of birth control.
The question remains: how many men would actually be interested in investing in a male form of birth control if the option was available to them? Apparently, the answer to that question is: a lot. According to an employee of one company who has a promising option in the works, 31,000 men are currently on a waiting list hoping to participate in a trial of the product.
When Aaron Hamlin, MPH, executive director of the Male Contraception Initiative, was asked if he thought men were open to the idea of male birth control, he responded, "That's an easy yes. We’ve had a number of supporters reach out indicating how beneficial a male contraceptive would be for them and their partner."