In a recent study, researchers were analyzing ways to lower the male sperm count, for birth-control purposes. A male participant’s sperm count was lowered to a level at which he would not be able to produce a child, and when he was not using the new contraceptive method, he was able to father a child.
The new pill, chemically, is made up of testosterone and progestin -- hormones that stop the production of sperm.
Male contraceptives are gaining interest from a number of scientists, who believe they hold promise for being safe, effective and, also important, reversible. “We have a number of irons in the fire,” Diana L. Blithe, program director for contraceptive development for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, told The New York Times. “I think men actually do want to do this.”
The most studied approach to male contraception uses testosterone and progestin hormones, which signal the body to stop producing sperm, researchers say. According to the National Institutes of Health, Center for Biotechnology Information, other methods include the male birth control pill and Gamendazole, which prevents sperm cells from maturing.
Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project, formed a foundation to develop other approaches, the Times reported. One such method, “reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance,” or Risug, involves injecting gel into the scrotum to effectively deactivate sperm.
Another involves briefly heating the testes with ultrasound, which can halt sperm production for months, she told the paper. “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," said Blithe.
Although 95 percent of the men who have taken the hormone birth-control pills saw successful results, others saw no results. The pills are not characterized as safe or effective for everyone just yet, particularly due to side effects and negative reactants, like alcohol. Dr. John K. Amory, a reproductive scientist at the University of Washington, told the Times he will work on making the drug alcohol-compatible.
As scientific advances are producing approaches that prove to pass the smell test, more and more individuals seem to be jumping on board. In October, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will sponsor a health conference, where some of these methods will be presented.