Is there a contraceptive pill for men?

What is the male pill?

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion about the development of a male birth control pill. Research on this is ongoing and at the time of writing, the option isn’t yet available on the market. 

Contraception has long been seen as a woman’s responsibility, with condoms and vasectomy the only options available for men. Condoms serve the dual purpose of protecting against pregnancy and STIs, but they are less effective and convenient than other methods. A vasectomy, on the other hand, is a permanent change meaning you couldn’t have children in the future. 

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How would the male pill work?

The idea behind the male contraceptive pill would be to block sperm from being released during ejaculation so that pregnancy cannot occur. A study by Monash University and the University of Leicester found this to be 100% successful on genetically modified mice. However, replicating this effect on human males is a lot more difficult as the average sperm count during ejaculation is 300 million. Researchers also need to ensure that this won’t cause harm or side effects. 

 

Other areas of research

A study by the University of Münster and Martin Luther University looked at the possibility of a contraceptive injection for men, with 320 individuals involved in the study. While it was found to be 96% effective, side effects were common which included reduced sperm count, mood changes and acne. 

A pill called 11-beta-MNTDC has passed human safety tests. It combines the male hormone testosterone with progesterone, a female sex hormone, in order to block the release of sperm. While it has passed this initial test, longer-term studies are needed to determine how effective it is, and whether prolonged side effects like reduced libido, erectile dysfunction and mood swings will remain present. It’s estimated that in ten years time, a male pill will be available on the market. 

In addition to this, there is also a body gel currently being tested which contains these same hormones. This would be applied to the back and shoulders, allowing the hormones to be absorbed into the bloodstream to block sperm production. The testosterone in the gel would work to top up the libido should it drop as a result of the treatment. 

 

Sources

NHS> What is the male pill?: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/male-pill/

BBC News> Male pill- why are we still waiting? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47691567

European pharmaceutical review> Second potential male birth control pill passes human safety test: https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/news/86087/second-potential-male-birth-control-pill-passes-human-safety-tests/

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