Much like flying cars and self-tying shoelaces, male birth control has long been thought of as a token of a futuristic world that may never truly come to be. However, researchers from the University of Minnesota believe they’re close to developing the first oral contraceptive for men. Cue female applause.
Currently, pregnancy prevention is largely the responsibility of uterus owners, due to the fact that our fertility is generally much easier to control. Traditional birth control pills and treatments use hormones to trick the body into thinking it’s already growing a human, and thus does not need to conceive another. This is fairly straight forward, so long as the woman is receptive to said hormones.
Hormonal treatments have been widely researched for use in male contraception, but not only do they fail to work on 20% of men, but they can often cause permanent infertility. So, unless guys are willing to risk the 50/50 chance of being able to reverse the dreaded ‘snip’, they don’t really have an effective option right now. The only other alternatives that are even close to market are semi-invasive – including a device that can be implanted behind the testicles to work as an ‘on/off’ switch for sperm production.
Thankfully, Dr Gunda Georg and her team have been working to change all of this, and stop a future of what Broadly has dubbed ‘robotized balls’. This new “non-hormonal approach” has led them to discover a compound that might just be the key to a reversible, chemical vasectomy.
Essentially, this compound can induce infertility by blocking the ‘alpha’ receptor responsible for sperm production. It’s a bittersweet discovery, as this compound also targets receptors not involved in procreation, which increases the risk of unwanted side effects. You know, unlike female alternatives, which only pose threats ranging from nausea to blood clots. Moreover, the compound has not been found to be very soluble, making it difficult to be ingested orally.
In any case, Dr Georg is determined to find a safe option for men, and extensive testing is being conducted to create “the ultimate balance of solubility, specificity and stability”.
Aside from the obvious benefits of such an alternative, such as the shared responsibility of contraceptives and the added safety it will provide heterosexual women and who cannot use birth control pills themselves, this wonder pill will also provide great opportunity to further open up discussion around men’s health. Its no secret that we live in a world where many men are hesitant to speak to their friends, and even medical professionals, about health concerns out of fear of emasculation. Although they are often encouraged to discuss their sexual endeavours, discourse around men’s sexual health is still a fraction as loud as that of women, and thus the opportunity for males to take responsibility for another facet of their health is extremely positive progress.
So, while its a little too early to throw out your Yasmin prescription, these scientific breakthroughs are certainly a conquest worth bragging about.
Bartz, Andrea. “Good News: We’re Getting Closer To A Male Birth Control Pill”. Glamour. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Bess, Gabby. “The Male Birth Control Pill Is About To Come (So Your Boyfriend Can, Too) | Broadly”. Broadly. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.