A safe, effective and reversible form of male birth control has eluded researchers for many years now. Vasectomies have been one of the only effective birth control options for men and they are a commonly irreversible surgery, a drastic step for men who may want to have children in the future.
Hormone birth control has been available for women for decades now, often making women the responsible parties for obtaining and consistently taking pills or injections.
Now men may have some of the same birth control options as women in the near future. Researchers announced at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in June that a topical combined hormone gel made for men is encouragingly effective at lowering the sperm count in the majority of men in recent trials.
The gel consists of a combination of synthetic progestin, called Nestorone, and testosterone. The combined effects of the Nestorone and testosterone “inhibits certain activities in the brain’s hypothalamus and in the pituitary gland that regulate sperm manufacture by the testes, largely shutting it down,” Science News reports.
The combined effects of these hormones reduced sperm count in about 89 percent of men. Compare that to a similar dosage of testosterone alone, which produced lower sperm counts in only about 23 percent of men.
In previous test medications for male hormone birth control, pills or injections were used, which would have required a doctor to administer the dosage. This new gel, if released, would be available for home use and would be applied directly to the skin in order for the body to absorb the hormone treatment.
This combined hormone treatment is also completely reversible. Sperm counts generally returned to normal three months after the patient stopped applying the birth control gel.
It may be quite a while before we see this new male contraceptive out on the market. Science Daily reports that the synthetic progestin, Nestorone, is an investigational new drug being developed by a nonprofit organization called Population Council in New York City.
More studies are required to assess the safety and side effects of the combined hormones in men. Some men reported an increase in acne during usage of the product.
This hormonal treatment is also less drastic than another male birth control option still under investigation in the research world. The insertion of the Intra Vas Device (IVD) has been under investigation for many years. In this procedure, small silicone plugs are inserted into the vasa deferentia to stop the flow of sperm. These plugs can be removed at any time and studies have shown that this form of male birth control is also reversible.
Still, the availability and affordability of a male hormonal birth control that can be applied to the skin would likely make it a preferable form of birth control to surgical options. If the Nestorone-testosterone combination gel does become available to the public in the coming years, it could mean a complete revolution in the way birth control is administered and viewed.
Women and men would both have an option to regulate their reproductive systems in comparable ways, which would mean women would not be the only ones that could expected to obtain birth control prescriptions or vilified for wanting reproductive freedom. This possibility for birth control parity also has the potential to seriously complicate recent arguments about birth control coverage in the American political landscape.
Photo Credit: Ceridwen
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