Male Birth Control? New Contraceptive Alternative Underway

Birth Control
The U.S. abortion rate in 2009 fell to its lowest level in a decade, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, crediting the development to one not-so-surprising factor: effective contraception. Reuters

Scientists are in a race to develop a male birth control pill that may become a new contraceptive alternative to condoms one day.

Male birth control pills work in similar fashion to female birth control pills by lowering sperm count to a level not conducive for conception. The pills contain the hormones testosterone and progestin, which stop the production of sperm.

About 95 percent of the men who have taken the hormone birth control pills saw successful results, according to reports. However, there are side affects and drinking, at least for now, while taking the pills tend to make people sick.

In spite of these findings, resurgence in male interest for effective, reversible birth control has sparked the interest of scientists around the globe, as reported in the New York Times, to develop the first safe and risk-free method for men.

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center have developed a pill called gamendazole that interrupts sperm maturation.

Dr. John K. Armory, of the University of Washington, is studying a drug to treat worm infections that coincidentally causes infertility by blocking production of retinoic acid, which is important for sperm production.

However, like most of the other pills developed, it is counterproductive when consumed with alcohol, which makes the user ill.

The New York Times reported that geneticist Debra J. Wolgemuth of Columbia University Medical Center is working on formulating a drug that blocks sperm production during alcohol consumption, without the ill effects.

Two drugs currently on the market, one used for treating hypertension and one for psychotic behavior, prevent ejaculation. However, in order for these drugs to be effective forms of birth control for men, their intended purpose for treatment will need to be altered.

Aside from pills for men to take as contraceptives, Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project, told the New York Times of her efforts to develop a gel injection to use as birth control. Currently under testing, Risug, an acronym for "reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance," is a gel injected into the scrotum. However, research does not show that Risug is reversible.

Lissner also suggested a possibly, not proven, method of birth control executed by "heating" the testes with high frequency sound waves, which, in some cases, stops sperm production for months.

"I can imagine a world where you take your car in every six months to get your oil changed and go next door and get your ultrasound for 50 bucks," Lissner said in a statement to the New York Times.

Since the high reception from men indicated through surveys, scientists are working on addressing the effects of these alternative sperm-blocking birth control methods for men, both long-term and short term side effects.

Similar to the side effects of the birth control pill for women, the pills developed for men carry several risks, including heart health, cholesterol, skin appearance and adverse moods.

Pharmaceutical companies have not endorsed any of the current male birth control pills created yet due to these possible long-term side effects.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will host a conference in October to showcase current research for possible male birth control pills, according to the New York Times.

Share this article