Male Birth Control Options

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Right now, (with the exception of abstinence and withdrawal), there are only two available male birth control options—condoms and vasectomy. Both of these birth control methods, though, offer men different choices.

  • Condoms: There are many types of condoms to choose from. Besides different sizes, shapes, and textures, you can choose condoms made from latex, polyurethane, polyisoprene, and lambskin.
  • Vasectomy: This is a permanent option for male birth control. You can choose between a traditional vasectomy or a no-scalpel (keyhole) vasectomy. Both of these are simple and effective procedures.

What About the Male Birth Control Shot?

A male birth control shot has been showing very promising results for decades. RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance) is an injection that is only being offered through clinical trials in India.

Current clinical studies show that this male birth control shot has been shown to be 99% effective—this is about the same rate of female hormonal birth control methods.

The male birth control shot is non-hormonal, minimally invasive, reversible, and can last for 8-10 years. It's like having a vasectomy—without the permanent snip.

In the United States, an injection called Vasalgel (which is very similar to RISUG) is the male birth control option furthest along in clinical trials and is closest to be the first new US option marketed for men. Vaselgel is currently undergoing animal and safety trials, but human clinical trials have not yet started.

How Does the RISUG Male Birth Control Shot Work?

After receiving a local anesthetic, the male birth control shot injects a non-toxic polymer (known as Vasalgel) into each of the vas deferens (the tubes connect the testes to the penis). The polymer attaches to the inner walls of the vas deferens and is highly charged. So when negative-charged sperm passes through the vas deferens, the Vasalgel destroys their tails. This makes it so that sperm cannot swim to reach and fertilize an egg.

The good news is that these male birth control injections are also completely reversible—all it takes is a simple injection of water and baking soda to flush out the polymer. It also doesn't interfere with the production of sperm. Also, the shot appears to have no side effects.

Are There Other Male Birth Control Methods in the Making?

There are several male birth control methods that are currently in varying stages of development.

  • Male Hormonal Contraception: The United Nations World Health Organization, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Sydney have all conducted trials to study the effects of weekly testosterone injections on sperm production. The use of steroid hormones (called androgens) has been shown to lower sperm count without any change in libido, ability to get an erection and achieve orgasm. Hormonal male birth control is about 95% effective, has few side effects, and is reversible. The main disadvantage of this method is that it can take up to 3–4 months to become effective. Research shows that about 67% of the men tested had their sperm count rise to normal within six months (with nearly all the men reaching normal sperm within a year).
    • Another study investigated combining the use of the birth control implant (Nexplanon) with injectable testosterone decanoate. Men received testosterone injections every 4-6 weeks. The results showed that this combined hormonal method significantly lowered sperm count. Plus, the lowered sperm count lasted for up to one year.
  • Gendarussa: This is a non-hormonal male birth control pill that has been offered through clinical trials in Indonesia. There has been on-going research since 1985. It comes from the Justicia gendarussa plant and appears to offer an effective male birth control alternative (as effective as the pill). It works by interfering with an enzyme in the sperm's head — this weakens the sperm's ability to penetrate the egg. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find published data on Gendarussa's use as a male contraceptive, so it is hard to predict the future of this method.
  • Epididymal Protease Inhibitor (Eppin): Eppin Pharma Inc. is trying to develop this non-hormonal male birth control pill. They claim that it is an effective, reversible, and short term male birth control option. This male contraceptive works by binding to the protein on the sperm's surface -- causing the sperm to lose their mobility. Preclinical animal studies have been conducted by the O’Rand Laboratory at the University of North Carolina and show promising results.
  • Clean Sheets Pill: This is a fast-acting male birth control method currently in the early stages of development in London. It prevents ejaculation but still allows the sensation of having an orgasm. This male birth control option also has the added potential to significantly lower male-to-partner transmission of HIV. It is called the Clean Sheets Pill because it stops semen from being released. This contraceptive pill is taken 2-3 hours prior to sex and lasts for 16-24 hours. The development of this male birth control option may be stalled due to funding issues. More research is needed before this potential male birth control pill could begin the long FDA research, testing and approval process.

Would Men Even Use This Male Birth Control Methods?

So many US women use some form of birth control. Many women also feel like the responsibility to use birth control rests mainly on them. It would be nice if men had more birth control options. This may be a possibility in the future. But male birth control research is expensive, and many developers are stopping their attempts to create additional male birth control options because of the costs.

The willingness of men to use a new type of male birth control varies widely between population groups.

One study found that 49% of men in the United States would be willing to consider a new male contraceptive — but 38% expressed that they don't know if they would be willing to use a new method, and 12% claimed they would not consider it.

Critics of the male birth control point to how often men refuse and complain about wearing condoms. They say that if men are put off by the simple act of having to roll on a condom, then these same men would most likely also object to having an injection in their scrotum. In the end, though, more options are always good. And most women will probably not object to finally be able to unload some of the burden of contraception use on men.

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