Birth Control advancements are pushing towards an oral pill developed strictly for men. This controversial research calls into question the effectiveness and risks for men. For years, women have asked why they should be the only ones responsible for taking a bill to prevent pregnancy.
In addition, questionnaires have shown an increased desire for men to take an oral contraceptive.
But it seems, as far as research shows, a successful and effective male oral contraceptive has been harder to finalize.
In a statement, Jillian Kyzer said, “At certain doses, it (works). But at those doses, it doesn’t work for up to 20% of men, and it can cause side effects, including weight gain and a decrease in ‘good’ cholesterol.” Kyzer is a graduate student at the University of Minnesota who has been working on a male contraceptive pill.
Lead researcher Gunda I. Georg, PhD, of the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, and his colleagues recently presented their findings at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in San Diego, CA.
Some of the studies have investigated the male hormone testosterone as a possible basis for such a drug; a huge side affect has been infertility at higher doses.
Other compounds have been assessed as a male contraceptive pill, but Georg and her team note there are a number of barriers that need to be overcome before such a drug can reach the market.
“The pill would need to be soluble – allowing it to be taken orally – and it would need to work quite quickly, without affecting a man’s sex drive.”
There are some pharmaceutical companies that have reached the experimental stages. Improvements and advancements still need to be seen during research that includes selectivity and not a broad shotgun approach, improved effectiveness, and decreased side effects.
“Even if just 5-10% of men used this (an oral contraceptive), it would limit population growth,” says Ilpo Huhtaniemi, emeritus professor of Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College London.
In a study in Mice Published in October 2015, Haruhiko Miyata and colleagues at Osaka University in Japan discovered a protein, called Calcineuron.
This protein may be crucial in helping sperm swim and break through the membrane of a female egg in order to fertilize it. When the genes behind this protein were blocked, the mice became infertile.
Pharmaceutical companies have been trying different areas of research for several years with varied results.
Areas that have been studied or are currently being studied include:
- Controlling sperm production
- Targeting testosterone productions
- Preventing sperm fertilizing with egg
- Decreased sperm motility
- Prevention of ejaculation
Often these different areas will fall into two categories.
Types of Research
1.) Hormonal Contraceptive
2.) Non-Hormonal Contraceptives
Sperm is created in testicles daily – this is triggered by the hormone testosterone. Therefore, the goal is to temporarily block this process – not allowing the production of healthy sperm cells.
The problem is that when this happens and the overall level of testosterone decreases – this causes other side effects including depression, loss of sexual desire, and others.
A possible solution may be the the process of giving men a synthetic version of testosterone. This has been somewhat successful in the testing phases. One problem, is that some men, despite the testosterone changes – still produce enough sperm to cause a pregnancy. The reason is still unknown. Further studies are looking at different combinations of synthetic testosterone and Progesterone.
Many of the studies surround this area deal with the Vas Deferens. This is a tube the sperm passes through on the way to the penis. The vas deferens is cut during a vasectomy.
RISUG is a technique called Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance. A chemical (non-toxic) is injected into the vas deferens. This chemical reacts and blocks the process. It kills the sperm it comes in contact with.
The chemical stays in place until the man wants to have children, then it can be washed or flushed away. Long term effectiveness and safety still needs to be researched.
Other research is looking into the Epididymis. This is a coiled tube behind the testicles where sperm matures. Thus far, research hasn’t been very successful.
Other Male Contraceptive Options:
Some other options are more and less effective than others.
Oral Contraceptive for Women
The pill for women went onto the marker in the 1960’s. About 20% of women are currently taking contraceptives or have done so within the last 3 months. The primary age of use is between 15 and 45.
Women’s Health is advancing rapidly and is a very important area of study.
Typically oral contraceptives do not have side effects on libido.
While there are a number of birth control pills available for women, they are not a suitable option for all couples.
Georg says: “It would be wonderful to provide couples with a safe alternative because some women cannot take birth control pills.”
Share your thoughts
Do you think that male birth control pills present a positive potential change in relationships, sex and reproductive health?
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