The Future of Male Birth Control

August 9, 2016
The Future of Male Birth Control

Despite numerous attempts at developing male contraceptive pills, condoms and vasectomies remain the only options for men who want to avoid pregnancy. To the delight of many, however, that may change soon, thanks to a handful of new potential options.
What's in the Works?
Researchers have developed several potential male birth control options. Among the most promising include:
Nestorone and testosterone gel
Combining the hormone nestorone with testosterone, this topical gel suppresses sperm output to very low levels. In a six-month test, the gel was able to reduce the risk of pregnancy by 90 percent, which is comparable to the female birth control's rate of 91 percent. Because it is applied to the skin, some men experienced acne; however, these side-effects were quite mild compared to previous gel treatments.
Also a gel, this male birth control method does not rely on hormones. Instead, it is injected into the vas deferens, which acts as the tube sperm swim through. Available in a 5-minute outpatient procedure, the gel works by blocking the tube. It's also thought to be completely reversible using a baking soda solution that flushes the gel.
This promising oral compound prevents mature sperm from being produced and appears to be 100-percent reversible. Still, although the research looks promising, much more testing is needed to assess the risk of side-effects and potential long-term problems.
Retinoic Acid Pill
This oral compound works by preventing retinoic acid from playing its critical role in sperm production. While intriguing, retinoic acid pills have not yet been tested in animals or people.
This non-hormone male birth control pill works by preventing sperm from swimming. Research is in its early stages, however, and experts can't yet predict when it could become a viable option.
Why Has Development Been Difficult?
Unlike women who ovulate just once a month, men constantly produce sperm, generating as much as 1,000 per second. This causes complications for researchers who must develop reversible compounds that work 24-hours a day without side-effects, such as depression and mood changes. Still, scientists have made great strides in recent years and most believe a male birth control pill will become available within the next half-decade.

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