What Is the Male Contraceptive Pill and When Will It Be Available?
We Answer Your Questions on the Pill for Men
A contraceptive pill. For people with male reproductive organs. Guys, this could truly be a game-changer, and here’s why. For as long as we can remember, people with female reproductive organs have been carrying the heavy responsibility load when it comes to contraceptives and so, the development of this new pill could bring us one step closer to closing the sexual equality gap that has been left open for far too long.
Now, we get it, sometimes contraception can be the last thing on your mind especially if you weren’t expecting to need it. You might have thought you were prepared but then realised you left your protection in your other pants. Whatever the case might be, it’s important to remember to be mindful of the other person because whether you are with them for a night or for the long haul, giving your sexual partner the peace of mind that you are thinking of their health and are actively being safe is definitely a turn-on.
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Also, with women’s bodies releasing one viable egg per reproductive cycle and men producing close to 300 million sperm cells every day, this is where the male pill could come in handy because it only takes one of these determined swimmers to fertilise an egg. To explore all the possibilities, we spoke to Dr. Sameer Sanghvi, the Clinical Technology Lead at Lloyds Pharmacy Online Doctor (LPOD), and sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, MA, the sexpert for Lovers, the sexual wellness brand and retailer, on what this means for us all.
What Male Contraceptives Are Currently Available?
It’s been more than half a century since oral contraceptive pills for people with female sexual organs were made available, and since then a variety of preventative methods have been invented including shots, internal condoms, IUD, cervical sponges, spermicide, and tubal ligation for folks with vaginas. “In cishet relationships, this can be daunting for the woman who is probably responsible for the prevention of pregnancy,“ says Stewart. “External condoms can also be put in the hands of a partner, especially if they have a preference or allergy, so at the moment there is really no equality,” adds Stewart.
So what about the withdrawal aka the pull-out method, we hear you say? Not to add friction to an already stiff situation, but Dr. Sanghvi states that this common method is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy. “Even with perfect use, the method still isn’t 100% effective, and frankly, the method isn’t always used perfectly — about 22 out of 100 people who use withdrawal get pregnant every year. It’s also worth noting that sperm can live in pre-cum, so any penis to vagina contact is risky.”
What Does the Pill Do?
The male pill will be the equivalent to the female pill as Dr. Sanghvi explains “for the pill to work it would have to slow or stop the creation of sperm, stop the sperm from leaving the body, prevent the sperm from reaching the destination, or prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg.”
Are There Any Side Effects to Taking the Pill?
At the moment, the results from early trials have shown side effects to include acne, fatigue, and headaches, and for a few men mild cases of low sex drive and erection difficulties have been reported too. However, more research is required, and only then will we be able to know if there are any long-term side effects, says Dr. Sanghvi.
Nonetheless, if you think this sounds bad, check out the potential side effects listed in your partner’s birth control. Yes, we think it’ll make you feel empathetic and appreciative of what women have to endure.
Are There Any Trial Alternatives?
Male advancements and trials for alternatives have remained pretty slow, but the good news is that in the last two decades four types of male birth control have been developed and trialed including a few versions of the male pill, a contraceptive gel, RISUG (“reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance” which involves injecting a non-toxic chemical into the vas deferens — the tube that carries the sperm to the urethra — which creates a block and kills sperm as they pass through), IVD (intra-vas device, which is a physical plug injected into the vas deferens to filter sperm) and contraceptive Injections, according to LPOD.
So, now we are finally seeing some progress with more companies (such as the winner of this year’s Dyson Award, COSO, an ultrasound-based, reversible, and hormone-free form of male contraception), inventors and investors (such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funding Dundee University) focusing their attention on creating and backing clinical trials for new methods, this will hopefully change our approach to sexual health.
Are We Ready for a Male Pill?
Data by LPOD found that an increase in searches for ‘male contraceptive’ went up by 50% in 2020, with interest in more freedom to choose and leveling the playing field. Also, if you care about women and interact with them daily, you should be in support of this new development because this will prompt more open dialogue within society about the gender norms in sexual relationships.
Stewart says this could help men start to be more responsible when it comes to protection and have a bigger part in reducing the chance of pregnancy, although, for casual encounters, some women might not trust men who say they’ve taken it. On the other hand, for those in a committed relationship, it might take the burden off the woman and eliminate stressors, which makes both parties more available for sexual interaction and experience.
Just like anything, there will always be early adopters but Stewart hopes that men will embrace the idea. With the help of a PR and marketing campaign, Stewart hopes that people could open up and normalize the idea.
When Will the Male Pill Be Readily Available?
As they say, good things come to those who wait and at the moment “the pill has passed initial human safety tests, but plenty of people have argued that the present delay is down to researchers avoiding inconveniencing men with potential side effects. A lack of interest can lead to a lack of investment, which makes developing treatments like this even harder,” says Dr. Sanghvi.
Currently, we are still years away from the pill being easily purchasable and offered over the counter, so Dr. Sanghvi suggests that ultimately, you should be using whatever form of contraception is the safest and most comfortable for you and your partner.
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