Women have various ways to prevent pregnancy, such as IUDs, injections, vaginal rings, diaphragms, the pill, and more. Birth control pills have been available to women for over 60 years. As for men, the only contraceptive methods are condoms, or to get a vasectomy. The two options are great, but there are some issues with them. Condoms are great and offer protection from STDs, but they are only 84% effective. And as for vasectomies, young sexually active men are not willing to get one, just to have to reverse it later with the possibility of it being unsuccessful. So in the end, the burden and responsibility fall on the woman to prevent pregnancy. But now, scientists have developed a male birth control pill. That’s right! It has passed safety tests and studies were conducted on a number of men, concluding that it is just as effective with little to no side effects. Now the only question is, will men take it, and when will it be on the market?
The experimental birth control pill for men is called 11-beta-methyl-19-nortestosterone dodecylcarbonate, or 11-beta-MNTDC. Researchers say that the drug sends signals to the brain telling it that the body’s testosterone levels are good enough, essentially stopping the production of sperm. The drug will mimic testosterone’s effects in other parts of the body in order to avoid major side effects. Dr. Christina Wang, associate director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, states that “the pill will decrease sperm production, while preserving libido.”
The trial conducted by Dr. Wang and colleagues included 40 healthy men, ages 18-50. Thirty of the men received the pill, while 10 men received a placebo capsule. The men took the pills for 28 days. The results were that the men who took the birth control had lower testosterone levels, with little to no side effects. Some men experienced some mild weight gain, fatigue, acne, or headache, which is normal even with the female birth control pill. Five men reported mildly decreased sex drive, and two men described mild erectile dysfunction, but sexual activity was not decreased. Despite the testosterone loss, the men did not complain of the slight decline in libido, and they stated that they would continue to take the drug.
Would Men Use It?
“The question we are always asked is, are men willing to use a novel contraceptive?” Wang said. “A global survey of over 9,000 men in nine countries showed that at least 55% of men would use a new method, and they say the pill was the most preferred method, followed by a long-acting injection.”
I created a survey to find out whether men would take the birth control pill and why or why not. The answers were more impressive than I imagined. While some refused to take it due to the unknown side effects (even though it has been shown that the side effects are the same, or less than, the ones women risk with the female pill), the majority said they would to prevent pregnancy.
Wang said that researchers could not observe sperm suppression in the men, as the drug would take at least 60 to 90 days to affect sperm production. Researchers next plan to conduct a longer study of at least 3 months to demonstrate sperm suppression and prove further safety, before testing the drug with sexually active couples. With the research and trials that have yet to be conducted, the research team is hopeful to have male birth control on the market within the next decade. Ten years may seem like a long time, but it will be worth it if men can share the responsibility of contraception. Almost half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Male contraception will help reduce this problem. Let’s hope more men are open-minded to the idea of using a birth control pill by the time it is on the market. “A birth-control pill for men, that’s fair. It makes more sense to take the bullets out of the gun than to wear a bulletproof vest.” -Greg Travis