Condom-less Male Contraception

Why This Matters | Krysia Sikora | March 2, 2016

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Excluding the use of condoms, traditionally birth control has been the responsibility of the woman.  In the United States alone, 17.5% of women aged 15-44 using birth control are on the infamous “pill”, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC). 

Yes this responsibility is partly due to the fact only two male forms of contraception exist— the condom and vasectomy — compared to the multiple methods available for women. But what if I were to tell you (and yes I am speaking to all the boys out there) that a male version of the “pill” is going to be available in the near future?  

So far the most promising research for the male “pill” is Vasalgel.  Vasalgel, a non-hormonal male contraceptive, is poised to be the first male contraceptive approved by the Food and Drug Administration since the condom and is expected to be on the market by 2018.

The contraceptive is being developed by The Parsemus Foundation, a non-profit medical foundation that aims to “advance innovative and neglected medical research”. So far the foundation says they have had success on animal testing the product, with human testing set to begin this year.

So, how does it work?  The truth is, even though people are regarding Vasalgel as the male version of the “pill,” it’s not really a pill.  Vasalgel is essentially a gel that is injected, under local anesthetic, into the vas deferens (for those who aren’t familiar with male anatomy, this is the tube sperm swim through) accessible through the scrotum.  The gel acts as a barrier preventing the sperm from leaving the body in the first place. A single injection is expected to be effective for years, however if a man wishes to “restore his flow of sperm” he can receive another injection that dissolves the gel making him fertile again.

Intrigued by a male opinion on the matter, I posed the question “Would you be willing to take a male version of the ‘pill’?” to several of my guy friends.  Every single one responded positively to being open to taking it… that is until I told them that they actually would be receiving a shot in their… um manly areas… to which they cringed and looked at me in horror.  

Although most of the boys that I asked seemed concerned about the shot (one respondent did say he’d be open to a birth control shot as long as it does not affect his sex drive or testosterone level), overall men are becoming more open to assuming birth control responsibilities.  According to a survey of nearly 400 Men’s Health Facebook followers, a majority of the men polled (86 percent) said they would be open to trying Vasalgel.

Women seem to love the idea of being able to share the responsibility of birth control, and in the same survey, 72 percent said they would trust their partner to get the birth-control shot. However, women acknowledge that this trust does not extend to casual sex.  

There are other forms of male contraception in development which don’t involve the “scary” injection to the scrotum.

Indonesian researchers have developed a male birth control pill using the native shrub gendarussa, a shrub that local tribesmen have been cultivating and drinking for years to prevent pregnancy.  The pill works by blocking the enzyme that allows a sperm to penetrate an egg.  In one trial, 350 men took the pill for one to four months, which resulted in only one pregnancy.  

Although this actual “pill” seems promising, researchers would most likely have to repeat most of its clinical trials in the United States to get FDA approval, which could delay the pill’s potential introduction to the U.S. market for another 10 years.

So for now, for girls like me who often find themselves forgetting to take their pill, Vasalgel looks like it is going to be the most promising and likely form of contraception to soon be available for men everywhere. Ladies, maybe its time to ask your partner, ‘what lengths would you incur to prevent pregnancy?” It may be that new technologies to ‘unload the gun’ will soon take over from our current norm of ‘wearing bullet proof vests’ in the birth control industry.