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Male contraceptive pill: Is it for real?

Male contraceptive pill: Is it for real?
4 minute read

The responsibility for birth control has historically fallen to women. There are many contraceptive options for women to choose from, including the contraceptive pill. For men, a contraceptive pill has never been an option. However, trials are ongoing to make this a reality. 

 

In this article, we’ll look into the contraceptive options for men, discuss the possibility of the male contraceptive pill, and take a look at what researchers are trying to achieve to bring the male pill to the market. 

What is available to men in terms of contraception? 

At present, widely available contraceptive options for men are few and far between. Two contraceptive choices for men are condoms and a vasectomy. Both these forms of contraception have been around for many years and are largely successful in stopping unwanted pregnancies. 

Male condoms 

 

Condoms act as a physical barrier to prevent the sperm from reaching an egg so it can’t be fertilised. They’re 98% effective if used correctly, dropping to 82% if not used as they should be. 

Vasectomy 

 

A vasectomy (also known as male sterilisation) involves minor surgery to snip the tubes in order to prevent sperm from reaching the semen before ejaculation. The procedure is done under local anaesthetic and is very difficult to reverse. It’s more than 99% effective at preventing an unwanted pregnancy but doesn’t protect against STIs in the way condoms can. 

Is there a male contraceptive pill?

 

Currently, there isn’t a male contraceptive pill available on the market. However, there’s ongoing research that’s looking into further safe and effective contraceptive options for men. The two main areas of research are: 

 

  • Hormonal contraception - using synthetic hormones to block the effect of testosterone on sperm development.
  • Non-hormonal contraception - using other techniques to prevent sperm from entering the vagina, such as injections into the vas deferens.

If there was a male contraceptive pill available UK research (2018) suggests that one in three (33%) of sexually active men would think about using it—which interestingly is the same amount of women who are currently using hormonal contraception. The research also shared that 31% of men were worried about any side effects from taking the pill. 

Key research into the male contraceptive pill

 

Research into male contraception began over 60 years ago and numerous trials of gels, implants, and injections have been studied. Researchers are looking for a way of temporarily stopping the effects of testosterone so the testicles no longer produce mature sperm cells. They want to be able to achieve this without lowering testosterone levels too much, as this could cause side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, loss of sex drive, and weight gain.

 

In terms of a male pill, most research is currently looking at various combinations of testosterone and progestogens (a synthetic version of the female sex hormone found in the progestogen-only contraceptive pill). Taking the male pill will stop the testes from making testosterone, which may stop sperm from being made, but also stop any unwanted side effects. It was found that taking testosterone-only pills wasn’t sufficient in reducing the rate and suppression of sperm production. 

 

In 2019, a study of 82 men showed that a hormone-based pill called dimethandrolone undecanoate (DMAU) was able to be taken every day for a month without causing any serious side effects. Another promising male contraceptive pill is 11-beta-MNTDC. A study shows that this pill may reduce sperm production while maintaining a man’s sex drive. 

 

As promising as these trials have been, longer studies into their effectiveness and possible side effects are needed, so the male contraceptive pill is still very much in the developmental stages. For example, it’s not clear whether DMAU can cause depression, mood changes, damage the liver and kidneys, or increase the risk of blood clots. 

 

Some trials of the male pill have reached Phase III, which is the last step before medicine can receive a marketing licence. However, the NHS believes that the male contraceptive pill won’t be ready for many years.  

 

Wrapping it up 

Is there a male contraceptive pill on the market at the moment? No, unfortunately not. However, researchers are continuing to trial hormonal drugs and are focusing on developing the most effective contraceptive pill which has the fewest side effects.

 

Having a male contraceptive pill in the future will offer men more control over their fertility and to share the responsibility for family planning. 

 

Until the male contraceptive pill is available, women you’re able to order your prescription of the pill with HealthHero.ie. No appointment is needed, all you need to do is complete a short safety questionnaire which is then reviewed by one of our doctors. You can choose a home delivery or pick up your prescription at over 1,500 pharmacies in Ireland. 

 

 

This blog was written by Rebekah Louise Benfield, a women's health and wellness specialist writerfor HealthHero.ie.