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Introducing new male contraceptive

by Eric Abruzzi

Birth control has always been seen as something unique to women who are trying to prevent pregnancy. For over 60 years, females have had multiple contraceptive options that have helped reduce the amount of total unplanned pregnancies. For the first time ever, there may be a legitimate option for men. In March of 2019, researchers from LA BioMed and the University of Washington announced that a male birth control pill has passed the first round of human safety tests. 

Attempts of male birth control options have been tested many times in the past but until now, there has never been a successful candidate.

How It Works

From the Live Science article “A Male Birth Control Pill Passed Safety Tests – Here’s How It Works”, Leslie Nemo said, “The researchers attribute their successful trial to the active agent in the pill, which is two hormones in one. Part progestin and part modified testosterone, the hybrid molecule means that the consumer always has matching levels of hormones in the body.”  

This aspect of the pill is crucial to the reduction of potential side effects males could have while using. In a trial conducted by The World Health Organization in 2016, with a different iteration of birth control, the subjects failed to complete the experiment because of persistent side effects. While it achieved a reduction in sperm count, the potential problems outweigh the percentage of success. Instead of a pill, it was administered as a vaccination and included two hormones that lowered sex drive, caused acne and created unpredictable mood swings for the experimenties.

11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecyl carbonate test’s saw the total number of side effects drop. Out of the forty men who took part in the experiment, none experienced serious side effects. This led to none of the candidates dropping out and allowed the pill to pass the initial wave of safety precautions. The results showed a successful reduction in total sperm count without the baggage that came with previous iterations of the drug. 

“The goal is to find a compound that has the fewest side effects and is the most effective,” said Stephanie Page, professor of Medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We are developing two oral drugs in parallel in an attempt to move the [contraceptive medicine] field forward.”

There are still many tests to pass but the drug is on its way to becoming a real option for men looking to live an active sex life without worrying about accidental pregnancy. 

Will People Use It?

Now that the pill is on its way to completion, the question now becomes will men want to use it? According to a multinational survey of 9,000 men, published in the journal Human Reproduction in February of 2005, “55% of men in stable relationships want to try new, hormonal male contraceptive methods if they are reversible.”

The support of a male contraceptive has become more prominent in society due to the rise in “hookup culture,” seen especially in college. Hookups from dating apps like Tinder have grown in popularity recently, which has increased interest from sexually active and single males.

“I feel like hookups have become more normal today then they ever have been,” said University of Tampa senior, and communications major Pat Infanti. “It would be nice to know that, regardless of who you meet, you don’t need to have that extra worry in the back of your head. It would definitely be a stress reliever.”

Never before have men been able to have this much control over fidelity and it could present great benefits. Single men will be in control of their sexual activity and married men can effectively space out pregnancies with their significant other. 

Females have also taken an interest in the development of a male birth control product. It has always been a one sided equation where women were the only ones altering hormones and their bodies as a whole to reduce the risk of pregnancy. The pressure has always been on females to ensure they are on schedule with their regiment and this new development could be weight taken off their shoulders.

In the article “Male Birth Control On the Horizon: A Woman’s View” author, Emily Duberman said, “men deserve a say in the fertility of a relationship just as much as women do. I can’t imagine the lack of control some young men might feel.”

This lack of control is an unnerving feeling for many men in today’s society and is a main contributor to the potential interest in the drug. It could remove much of the risk and stress that comes with being sexually active. 

Male contraceptives will even the playing field for both men and women. It could potentially give men an alternative to condoms, which do not guarantee perfect results, as well as the invasive and nearly irreversible vasectomy surgery. This long anticipated alternative is well in the developmental stage but men will have to continue to rely on the scarce options available to them for the time being. The future in this particular field is unknown but the creation of a male pill will finally give men a choice in terms of their fidelity.

Eric Abruzzi can be reached at eric.abruzzi@spartans.ut.edu

 

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