Male birth control

Contraceptive options available to men, why to use them and developments in research


Current contraceptive options

The two main options available to men have not changed for many years. These are a condom and vasectomy.

Condoms are a barrier method that stop sperm from reaching the egg. They have the added benefit that they protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV. However, they are less effective at preventing pregnancy (84% prevention)  than some other contraceptive options available to women such as the pill/IUD/implant (over 90% prevention). 

A vasectomy is an operation in which the vas deferens - the tubes sperm travel in before reaching the penis are cut. This operation is very hard to reverse so a vasectomy in effect is a permanent method of male contraception. This method is very effective with only 15/10,000 couples getting pregnant. It is a cheap method, easier than female sterilization and sex/ejaculate/semen are the same as before the operation. However you still need condoms to protect against STDs and surgery may have risks such as infection, swelling or bleeding. 

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The withdrawal method is highly unreliable as sperm can be present in pre-ejaculate. Therefore it is advisable to use additional methods.


Why use male contraceptives?

Reasons to use male contraceptives are several. Firstly each method of contraception is not fool-proof, not even the female contraceptive pill has a 100% prevention rate, so combining methods makes sense to reduce the chance of pregnancy further. It may also be the case that your partner is not using any contraception or they can’t take certain forms of contraception due to side effects, for example. 


New Research

Several developments are underway to improve the breadth of contraceptive options available to men. Possibilities that may be available in the future include injections, a male contraceptive pill or non-invasive methods of contraception. Research is being conducted on mice and humans with injections being a common route so far:

  • A 2016 study combined progestogen and testosterone injections in men and was found to be very effective at reducing sperm count and pregnancy. However in nearly half the men acne and mood changes were reported, so the side effects were significant.

  • Another study examined genetically engineered mice with 2 altered proteins normally responsible for sperm reaching the ejaculate. This method was very effective and no adverse functions on the sexual behaviour of these mice were reported

  • Research shows a compound, JQ1, stops a protein involved in sperm production. Injecting this chemical in mice showed it was effective and reversible as a method of contraception.

  • RISUG has reached phase III trials in India. RISUG stands for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance and involves an operation injecting a polymer into the vas deferens that inactivates sperm before they exit the body. 




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