Guest written by Missy Modell, a musical parody artist and activist focused on the intersection of social justice and pop culture. Missy is the founder of YES MAM Creative, a consultancy for mission-based brands. You can find Missy on Instagram at @missymodell.
*Disclaimer* This post was written about upcoming birth control options for folks who produce sperm.
When you think about birth control, it is likely that you automatically associate it with female birth control. Whether it’s an IUD, ovulation tracker, hormonal birth control pill, shots, or implant, there are a myriad of options available for women. With much of the responsibility falling on women for controlling their future, many have posed the question: where is men’s birth control? Since the 1970s, scientists have been trying to create a birth control pill for men to no avail. A large study conducted in 2016 showed great efficacy, however:
The irony of this, is that women are notoriously dealing with many side effects as a result of hormonal birth control. These may include: nausea, weight gain, mood swings, missed periods, and more.
Here are the three current birth control options on the market for men who are looking to prevent pregnancy:
A vasectomy cuts the supply of sperm to your semen by cutting and sealing the tubes that carry sperm.
Condoms are a heath-shaped barrier device that prevents sperm from entering the vagina.
Outercourse refers to any act of non-penetrative sex. Some people consider oral sex, fingering, and hand jobs to be a form of outercourse. Mutual masturbation is also a popular style of outercourse.
“The main barrier is finding an effective pill with minimal side effects and the enthusiasm for men to take such a pill. In committed relationships, this will work out well and men will likely be up for taking a pill. But, our track record as a gender for assuming birth control responsibility is not stellar. Women overwhelmingly outnumber men for going through surgical sterilization procedures even though a female tubal ligation is far more invasive than a vasectomy.”
Despite these limited options, good news: research is underway for several alternatives. Although they will not be on the market for the foreseeable future, progress is happening.
Oral Contraceptive Pill
Recent studies have shown that this new non-hormonal birth control pill for men seems to have great efficacy, with minimal side effects.
“The drug was 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy in mice and has no apparent side effects, according to the research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society. When mice were given the drug orally for just four weeks, they had such a steep drop in sperm count that they became sterile. When the team stopped dosing the animals, they noticed the drug’s effects were reversed: the mice bounced back to normal virility in four to six weeks.”
- Smithsonian Mag
Human clinical trials on the new male oral contraceptive are scheduled to begin later this year.
COSO (Testicle Bath)
COSO is an ultrasound-powered contraception device that neutralizes sperm. Designed for home use, the user dips their testicles into the small bowl of water for a few minutes while the ultrasound waves temporarily halt sperm regeneration. According to the founder, COSO should become effective within two weeks and last for at least two months. Fertility would return to normal six months after the last treatment. Teabag your way to temporary infertility!
Progress on COSO is slow and still needs to go through clinical testing.
Based on preliminary research conducted elsewhere, scientists believe that hormonal gel decreases a man’s sperm production, without decreasing his sex drive. This gel contains two hormones: (1) synthetic progesterone called Nestorone®, which blocks natural testosterone production in the testes and reduces sperm production and (2) a replacement testosterone, which helps maintain sex drive and other natural functions dependent on the hormone. The gel is applied to the men’s shoulders and is reversible.
Hormonal gels are still in clinical trials.
Contraline is developing ADAM™: the world's first injectable hydrogel designed to provide men with long-lasting contraception (up to a year). It's like the IUD for men.
Contraline is currently waiting for clinical trials.
Otherwise known as “RISUG,'' which stands for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance. RISUG is non-hormonal, minimally invasive, reversible, and effective for up to 10 years. Many people liken it to having a vasectomy, without the surgery or snip.
In the United States, Vasalgel, a contraceptive method based on RISUG, is the male birth control option furthest along in clinical trials and closest to being marketed for men. Vasalgel is currently undergoing animal and safety trials, but human clinical trials have not yet started.