Study Suggests Possibility Of Male Birth Control, But We’re Not There Yet

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was important news Thursday, for couples wanting to avoid pregnancy as a new study suggested that there could be a male version of the birth control pill.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, it’s not exactly the same as the pill, and there are drawbacks.

Women have asked for decades, why do I have to be the one taking a pill? Isn’t there birth control that men can take?

Doctors have tried and failed to find that for years, mostly because men and women’s hormones and fertility work very differently.

Now, an injection may get us closer.

While women can choose from a number of birth control methods, men’s options to prevent pregnancy boil down to condoms, vasectomies, and withdrawal. Both sides say men need better methods.

The difficulty in developing birth control for men stems from the fact that men are continuously producing prodigious numbers of sperm cells.

“It is nature’s most amazing assembly line. In the normal functioning male, you make 1,800 sperm every time your heart beats,” Dr. Joe Alukal, NYU Langone Medical Center said.

Which translates into roughly 100-million sperm per milliliter — that’s a lot of fertility to shut down.

Now, a glimmer of hope for a male contraceptive has come from a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Researchers from Europe, Asia, and Australia injected 320 healthy men every 8 weeks with high doses of the sex hormones progesterone and testosterone.

After about six months, sperm counts had decreased dramatically.

“They considered success if there were less than a million moving sperm per milliliter. That’s very low, but not zero. For the person who’s with a partner who’s very fertile, he may still have a reasonable chance of getting her pregnant,” Dr. Alukal said.

In fact there were four pregnancies in the study. All of which led men to doubt they would go for this method.

“Not a good idea, asking for trouble if not 100 percent,” Charlie Sincinito said.

“I don’t trust it. It doesn’t sound fool-proof enough,” Daniel Clemens added.

Plus there were significant side effects.

“As expected patients reported acne, changes in mood or behavior, and weight change or weight gain,” Dr. Alukal said.

Then there’s the issue of trust for women.

“Men usually forget to take their medication, so is he gonna remember to take it,” Alicia Gopaulsingh said.

There are also questions over whether long-term use of the hormonal block could be reversible or if it could lead to permanent sterility or permanent dependence on testosterone injections because the body has stopped making its own.

The verdict at this point — interesting development, but not ready for prime time.

 

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