Whenever people think of birth control or contraception, they think about condoms and birth control pills. Though contraceptive pills are available for use in women, as of now, condoms are the only contraceptive method available for men, other than vasectomy.
But what if there is a novel method for contraception that doesn’t involve wearing condoms? Well, scientists are just putting their efforts into finding one! This involves both hormonal and non-hormonal methods, and if a viable contraceptive method for men can be found, that would be a massive sharing of responsibility with their female partners.
According to researchers at the University of Washington, soon options similar to that of women’s contraceptive methods will be available to men too if things go according to their plan.
How Was Research Conducted?
Researchers at the University of Washington are conducting clinical trials on a topical cream that can be applied to the skin of men, which is a hormonal combination of testosterone and progestin in a therapeutic ratio. Once applied, the gel gets absorbed through the skin which can signal the brain to reduce the levels of testosterone in men.
Since testosterone is essential for spermatogenesis and the maturation of sperms, which would modulate the process of spermatogenesis, resulting in lesser sperms in men. The study is done on voluntary subjects, who are couples, and is conducted worldwide, and is done in different phases.
In phase one, the gel is applied regularly but the couples are also required to use other contraceptive methods such as using condoms, etc. During the period, the sperm count of the male partner will be monitored continuously, until it has reached the level that would prevent pregnancy.
Once this state has been achieved, couples are required to stop the traditional contraceptives they’ve been using. This is phase two of the trial, and the male partner would still be using the gel regularly in this phase. In the last stage of the trial, the male partner will stop applying the gel, and his sperm count will be monitored again to see if it can prevent pregnancy.
This is a hormonal method of contraception in men, and according to some of the test subjects, they were very happy to share some responsibility with their female partners, as hormonal contraceptive methods may carry some side effects.
The hormonal method is the common contraceptive method used by women, and these subjects were happy to support their female partners by joining in their ‘struggle’. Some researchers are also working on hormonal pills and injections for men, that would be as effective as the gel.
Previously, much of the research in this area had been discouraged due to serious side effects in men such as multiple organ toxicity, and risk of prostate cancer. But researchers claim that the gel used in the current research doesn’t carry those serious side effects, though less serious ones such as acne, moderate weight gain, etc., could be expected.
Researchers are also looking to develop non-hormonal drugs of contraception in men which might be a little more effective than hormonal ones. These methods target sperm characteristics such as motility rather than count.
The method works by altering certain processes or pathways specific to spermatogenesis and keeps the other processes intact, thus effectively preventing the chance of broader body processes from getting affected. Obviously, the method will have negligible side effects compared to hormonal methods.
Another non-hormonal method that is currently under research is a gel or solution that can be injected into the muscular tube which transports sperm to the urethra, which blocks the transportation of sperm, thus preventing fertilization.
Though all these methods look promising, more research and trials are needed to make a definite verdict on their usability and efficacy.