Have you ever considered what life would be like if male hormonal contraceptives existed? If so, you might want to keep reading. Birth control for guys might be here sooner than any of us think—here’s what you should know about it.
- It’s a topical gel. The contraception is a topical gel formula. Men will rub a teaspoon of gel on their upper arms and shoulders every day until it dries. I can’t help but roll my eyes a little bit at the ease of this particular method of contraception. While women have been taking pills and inserting devices and implants into our bodies for years, it seems a little bit unfair that men have a non-invasive option to avoid pregnancy from the start.
- A clinical trial is slated for the spring to test its effectiveness. After years of research, it seems like science might finally have a contraceptive solution for men. In April, researchers from the United States will conduct a clinical trial expected to run for about four years. More than 400 couples will participate at various places in the United States and across the world.
- The gel is a combination of testosterone and progestin. These synthetic hormones will work together to decrease sperm levels. Progestin makes it harder for testes to produce the requisite amount of testosterone to make normal levels of sperm. Testosterone helps to counteract any hormonal imbalance caused by progestin’s suppression of production of sperm. A previous European study involved giving men injections of hormones every two months. While the shots were effective at preventing pregnancy, the men experienced major mood swings due to a hormonal imbalance. This gel combination seeks to prevent those mood swings.
- It aims to suppress sperm levels for up to 72 hours. How genius is that? If taken correctly, sperm levels will drop to less than one million per millimeter of semen to prevent pregnancy. If a guy forgets to take it, they have a window before it loses effectiveness. Normal sperm levels are between 15 million and 200 million per millimeter of semen, so those numbers alone show the potential effectiveness of this kind of contraception.
- Apparently, it’s more effective than the pill. According to research, this is because synthetic testosterone is metabolized faster in the body. So you mean to tell me that science might have finally created a contraceptive for men after levying the financial and physical burden on women for years and now they’re saying that it just happens to also be more effective than birth control pills?
- If women can take the pill every day, a dude can remember to rub some gel on his body every day. Researchers say that the gel will be effective if it’s used every single day but they’re worried about compliance with the regimen. Personally, I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult. Women already set alarms, calendar reminders and use mobile applications to remind them to diligently take their birth control so guys can do the same. It’s really not that hard.
- A male contraceptive promotes equality between the sexes. Bearing the financial and physical burden of birth control is taxing on some women. If there’s an option (other than a vasectomy, the pull out method, and a condom) that makes puts a bit of the onus on men to prevent pregnancy rather than women, I think our society could see a change in how we think about reproductive health and responsibility. Plus, consider women who can’t take hormonal birth control for health reasons. If their partners took responsibility by taking a male contraceptive, it could change their lives.
- It might take some convincing. According to a study conducted in 2010, 25% of men across the world would consider using hormonal birth control. Obviously, the study is a bit dated and there’s a chance that the percentage of men has risen since 2010, but 25% of men is a relatively low number. Demonstrating to men that this is a legitimate way to practice safe sex and to be responsible and accountable might be a small feat.
- A lot can happen in four years. Remember, the trial is expected to last four years. Four years is the length of a typical college degree program in the United States. Think about how much can change and happen in that amount of time. Researchers will gather a ton of data on the effectiveness of this mode of contraception and also determine whether there are any other benefits or disadvantages to taking it. A different form of a male contraceptive could pop up somewhere by a competing group of scientists. Who knows what will happen?