Every couple of years, a new birth control method for women pops up on pharmacy shelves or in your gyno’s office that is safe, easy, and super-effective—for example, the extended cycle pill, OTC emergency contraception, and the shorter-term Skyla IUD all made their debuts in the last decade.
But for guys? Their options are stuck in a time warp. If a man wants to take pregnancy prevention into his own hands, his choice basically comes down to condoms, a vasectomy, withdrawal, or abstinence. That’s why it’s so amazing that scientists are finally developing some real advancements when it comes to male contraception.
Researchers writing in the April issue of the Open Access Journal Contraception published a rundown of the top emerging options. A few hold real promise, particularly a daily or weekly pill that would deliver a dose of artificial hormones to a guy’s bloodstream, which would then act on reproductive hormones to stop sperm from being produced. Like the female hormonal pill, the male hormonal pill would be reversible. But also like the female hormonal pill, there appear to be side effects—among them acne, weight gain, and even trickier to work around, changes in testosterone levels that trigger a plunge in libido, says review coauthor Deborah A. Garside, a member of the department of medicine at Imperial College in London, UK.
Non-hormonal techniques are also being developed, particularly a vaccine that immunizes men with antibodies to halt to sperm production. This so-called male birth-control shot is encouraging, says Garside, because it targets sperm directly (rather than targeting other hormones in the body) and doesn’t have the testosterone-lowering side effects of a hormonal pill. Each injection would last for long intervals (experts aren’t yet sure how long), but the pregnancy-preventing effects would be reversible if and when a guy decides he’s ready to be a dad.
So when can you expect to see men rushing out to the pharmacy counter to pick up their new birth control Rx? “I think we may see a novel male contraceptive within 10 years,” says Garside. That may seem far off, but hey—at least it’s finally within sight.
An international poll cited in the article showed that only two percent of women in monogamous relationships would not trust their partner to take a male contraception method. How about you—would you rely on your guy to take a birth control pill or shot as directed?