Currently, the major options for male birth control are wearing a condom or getting an essentially permanent vasectomy. Fortunately, there may be several new options for male birth control.
The roadblock has been the male anatomy: Men produce about 1,000 sperm every second, according to Mara Roth, MD, an endocrinologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle, who appeared in a recent WebMD article. So what’s on the horizon for male birth control?
A Gel That Lowers Sperm Count
Men get a vasectomy to cut off the supply of sperm completely—to shoot blanks—as some urologists put it. But urologists like Roth say, you don’t need zero sperm to be effective, just few enough to prevent pregnancy. Hence the rise of such treatments such as Nestorone, which combine the hormone nestorone with testosterone in a gel that men rub on their arms. Both act to bring down the sperm count to very low levels.
The good news is that injected gels, which go by names like Vasalgel, are hormone free and last for years. The bad news for guys is that the gels are injected into the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm. So it’s not as easy or painless as popping a pill or rubbing a gel onto an arm. So how do they work? Injected gels act to block out sperm. The procedure takes about as long as a vasectomy.
Stopping Sperm Production Halfway
Another solution guys will glom onto is the Retinoid Acid Pill. It halts the formation of retinoic acid to arrest the production of sperm halfway through their development. In the WebMD article, Gunda Georg, PhD, professor and head of medicinal chemistry at the University of Minnesota, notes the RA pill has only been tested in the lab, not in people.
Most Likely and Most Promising
Give a guy a choice between a vaso, injected gels, or a pill and he’s likely to take the pill. It’s called H2-Gamendazole, a compound you swallow that essentially prevents the production of mature sperm. Joseph Tash, PhD, professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas Medical Center notes that H2-G is a “potent non-hormonal inhibitor of sperm maturation and release in the testis causing 100% infertility and complete recovery in male rats.” That said, H2-G still remains to be tested on men to prove it can be reversed.