March 23rd, 2017
Male contraceptives haven’t varied much in the last several decades. Abstinence, condoms, and vasectomies are traditionally the only methods men have to protect against pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintentional. Both women and men are responsible for pregnancy but the burden of preventing contraception often falls on women. Luckily, advancements are being made in men’s contraceptive methods.
Condoms are thin barriers that men wear on their penis during sex. They are a good protection against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, but they are not 100% effective. They are extremely easy to use and easy to purchase. A vasectomy is a permanent way to prevent pregnancy. During a vasectomy, a man’s tubes that carry sperm are closed. Abstinence involves abstaining from sex altogether.
Many men look for contraception options other than condoms, vasectomies, and abstinence. Newer (and some unproven) methods include male birth control shots, and male IUDs. Though there has been talk of a male birth control pill, trials have found pills to be of varying effectiveness and with many side effects, similar to birth control pills for women.
A study published in 2016 found a birth control shot in men was effective in preventing pregnancy. The shot is given every eight weeks and consists of testosterone. When a man is given a shot of testosterone, the body thinks testosterone production is sufficient and shits down the testicle’s production of testosterone and sperm. Similar to female birth control pills, side effects included muscle pain, increased, libido, depression, mood disorders, and acne.
Another new form of male birth control is Vasalgel – a procedure that injects contraceptive directly into a man’s vas deferens, the duct that transports sperm through the penis. Vasalegel is similar to an IUD for women. Vasalgel blocks sperm and is said to be non-hormonal and only require a single treatment. Similar to a vasectomy, it is removable and does not interfere with sperm production and side effects are thought to be minimal. It is not on the market yet, but could be soon.
Advances in male birth control would be revolutionary. Not only would it give men more power in their reproductive choices, but it would also alleviate pressure on women to avoid pregnancy. Unintended pregnancies are costly and emotional – as are abortions and the morning after pill. Contraceptives for men, including male IUDs or shots, are on their way.
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