The male contraceptive pill might soon be a reality
Their bodies, their choice!
Of course, The Pill was a revolution for women (and by extension men). It gave us control over our bodies - when we got pregnant, or whether we got pregnant - which allowed us the time and space to pursue higher education and (gasp!) careers. It separated sex from pregnancy, and eliminated the worrry that in 40 weeks you could be cradling a precious and totally life-changing bub - making for much more enjoyable sex.
But there are problems with The Pill - weight gain and hormone fluctuations to name a few - and just because something works pretty well, doesn't mean we shouldn't perfect it.
While a perfect side-effect free birth control method may not exist, it looks like we're closer to sharing the burden of birth control with men: a male contraceptive pill has been tested, and this one doesn't have the terrifying side effects of the last one.
Researchers at the University of Washington have been testing a new compound called DMAU, and have found that it is safe for humans, and that it is effective at lowering sperm count enough to make it an effective contraceptive.
DMAU was given to 100 adult males between 18 and 50 years old and after a month, 83 of the men experienced a drop in the hormones that manufacture sperm. Researchers are hopeful that it will become an effective contraceptive.
Previous male birth control pills have ranged from impractical (men had to take multiple doses every day), to unhealthy (increased testosterone causing liver damage), to downright terrifying (one man attempted suicide during a trial).
Like the pill for women, DMAU's side effects can cause minimal weight gain, lowered libido and lowered levels of good cholesterol. But one month after stopping DMAU, men's hormone levels returned to normal.
However, getting funding for male contraception can be tricky. For example, a gel that stops sperm exiting the body during sex could be injected into the scrotum, but pharmaceutical companies won't fund it. The procedure is probably no more invasive or uncomfortable than getting an IUD, but gynaecologist Herjan Coelingh Bennink told The Pool, "the big companies are run by white, middle-aged males who have the same feeling - that they would never do it."
If DMAU is successfully made into a drug, there's always the issue of men remembering to take it. It's hard enough to remember The Pill even when the threat of pregnancy looms. Imagine how well you'd remember if there were no physical consequences for you. But it's good we're talking about sharing the burden of birth control, and positive that scientists are making real advances.
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