++ Disclaimer ++
This article uses the word “male” to refer to non-menstruating bodies that possess a penis, for simplicity of language. This has no connection to gender identity or expression. Furthermore, this article is a brief overview of options for male contraception and is not intended as a recommendation.
Options for male birth control are, sadly, limited. However, I recently wrote an article about female hormonal birth control and wanted to explore options for male birth control. Largely, the onus is unfairly put on female birth control to prevent pregnancy, which is reflected in the availability of methods for this. Male birth control has fewer options than female birth control, and also an overall higher failure rate. Furthermore, developments in male contraception have been slow.
What options are there for male birth control?
But what options are there? There is a handful at best. Getting a vasectomy remains the most effective and only permanent means of doing so. This can be reversed later in life, but the later this is left, the lower the chances of success. Other, less enduring methods include barrier methods such as condoms and spermicides. These work by simply stopping the sperm from reaching the egg, which prevents fertilisation. Other recommendations include simply not engaging in sex (abstinence) or withdrawing before orgasm. However, telling people to abstain from sex does not help the problem, and the withdrawal method does not work. Sperm can still be released before ejaculation and cause pregnancy.
What methods of male birth control are in development?
There is hope on the horizon, however, from several developments in male birth control. An injection looks promising: reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG). It lasts for ten years, does not use hormones, and it is fully reversible. For birth control for males, this is promising. A polymer gel is injected into the vas deferens, the two tubes which carry sperm from the testes to the penis. This is positively charged and adheres to the walls of the tubes. When negatively charged sperm cells flow through, their heads and tails are damaged, making them infertile. Notably, it can easily be reversed by another injection, which dissolves the gel and washes it away. In 2019, it was in late-stage clinical testing, and it appears to be 99 % effective. However, its distribution has not been promising.
Elsewhere, there is the male birth control pill, dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU). As non-menstruators do not have a menstrual cycle that determines fertility, this hormonal form of contraception works by suppressing follicle-stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone at the pituitary, to decrease the production of testosterone and sperm. Lowering sperm count leads to a much lower chance of pregnancy without affecting libido, the ability to get an erection, or the ability to orgasm.
There are even more options in the future
These are only two of many forms of male birth control in development at the moment. Another is the Clean Sheet Pill, which may prevent ejaculation altogether. Its developers hope it may restrict the spread of STIs such as HIV as well as serve as birth control for males. Yet another is COSO, a contraceptive device that can be used at home. It is a device shaped like a bowl and works by being filled with water and heated. The user places their testicles inside for a few minutes and is rendered temporarily infertile, with no side effects. Overall, there are many possibilities in development, but they still may be a few years off.
Even with some options for male birth control now, and even more, coming onto the market, not all issues are addressed. How much it will be used is in doubt, as seen in RISUG’s distribution. In the United States, over half of the sexually active males surveyed would be likely to use a male birth control pill if it were available. However, critics point to reluctance to even use condoms as a fear that it wouldn’t be as common as is hoped.
Male contraception – and now?
For now, the onus is not on male participants in sex to find contraception. This is as much an issue as the lack of availability. But it is an issue that will hopefully improve if these options, and more, become widely available. Contraception is an issue that all sex partners should be concerned with, regardless of sex, gender, sexual orientation and outdated views of society. Therefore, let’s start getting better and educating ourselves about our contraception!
Have you ever heard of male contraception? What do you think about the different methods? Tell us in a comment!