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New developments in contraceptives for men

June 18th, 2021
Biron Team
Biron Team
info@biron.com

While condoms are still the safest and most widely used form of birth control, there are many other effective methods of male contraception. These procedures are often poorly understood, because contraception has traditionally been an issue concerning only women.

This may soon be a thing of the past thanks to scientific research and the emergence of a contraceptive pill for men. In the long run, these advances could balance out the mental burden on couples and by the same token, provide women with relief from the side effects of the pill.

A big step forward in contraceptive research

When a couple’s relationship becomes long-term, condoms are usually replaced with “the pill.” Unfortunately, this female responsibility does not come without its share of drawbacks and can lead to pain, weight gain, loss of libido and other problems. It can even entail serious risks such as brain tumours or pulmonary embolisms.

For this reason, researchers have long been interested in the subject in order to offer women new and safer options. A group of American researchers now appear to be on the right track. Indeed, a study published in 2019 presents breakthroughs that could, in the future, reshape responsibilities within couples and reduce health risks for women.

A future contraceptive for men

A laboratory in California has conducted the first evaluation phase of a male oral contraceptive called 11-beta-MNTDC. According to the head of the program, Dr. Christina Wang, initial results suggest that this new pill reduces sperm production while preserving libido.

The tests involved 40 men who received different doses (200 mg or 400 mg) of 11-beta-MNTDC or a placebo. Some participants who received the higher dose experienced mild side effects such as fatigue, acne and headaches. However, despite a drop in their testosterone levels, they did not notice any significant reduction in sexual activity. All of them also passed safety tests for potential side effects.

Read more: Andropause and the influence of testosterone on leadership

How does this “pill” work?

Male fertility is highly dependent on the actions of FSH and LH, both produced by the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain behind the nasal cavity. FSH and LH act on the testicles by stimulating the production of sperm and testosterone. The new pill disrupts this process, inhibiting sperm production by means of a molecule similar to progesterone. To minimize the side effects, a hormone comparable to androgen mimics the effect of testosterone and balances the body’s response. [1]

Will it be available soon?

Research is still in its first phase, but men seem to be in favour of using this type of method. Dr. Wang cites a study in the journal Human Reproduction, which found that 55% of a panel of 9,000 men would be willing to use hormonal contraception.

However, Dr. Wang cautions that a safe and reversible method will not appear on the market for another decade or so. Consequently, traditional methods have a long future ahead of them, but research seems to be on the right track to offer new solutions.

It seems that some women are still reluctant to hand over responsibility for birth control to their partner, since the direct consequences are more significant for them. However, there are a number of available and reliable methods for male contraception.[2]

Condom

When used as directed, the condom is the safest form of contraception, and is especially popular in the early stages of a sexual relationship. It has the added advantage of protecting against sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs). However, since a majority of men find them uncomfortable, condoms are frequently replaced with other methods as the relationship progresses. On that note, there is no evidence that wearing a condom affects the quality of sexual relations, according to a 2013 study.

Read more: What is an STBBI and how is it transmitted?

Hormonal injections

Developed in the late 1970s, hormonal injections involve injecting testosterone enanthate into the muscle. The side effects for women are similar to taking the birth control pill, including oily skin and weight gain.

This method is not widely publicized or often used, probably because of the unpleasant procedure it involves. To be effective, the injection must be administered once a week, a far cry from the convenience of a daily pill. Also, not many physicians prescribe hormonal injections and these treatments have not been subject to large-scale clinical trials.

Vasectomy

Although often seen as a permanent form of birth control, vasectomy is not the first option that men usually resort to. This procedure involves severing or blocking the ducts through which the sperm pass. However, “vasectomy should not be seen as a form of sterilization,” says Dr. Soufir, andrologist at the Hôpital Cochin in Paris. It is indeed possible to reconstruct the ducts through a vasovasostomy. The chance of achieving fertility following this operation is about 50%.[3]

Another quite similar method is vasalgel, which may soon be available and consists of injecting a hydrogel to block the ducts. This solution is said to be reversible, since the effects wear off about 12 months following the injection. As a result, this procedure could in some cases be an interesting alternative to vasectomy.[4]

Post-vasectomy spermogram

A spermogram done twice after the vasectomy ensures that the quantity of sperm in the semen is insufficient for fertilization.

What is the future of male contraception?

IUDs, contraceptive patches, birth control pills or morning-after pills… there is no shortage of methods for women to avoid pregnancy. In fact, a wealth of research since the 1960s is readily available on this topic. Even today, women are primarily responsible for this matter. However, surveys show that men are increasingly interested. Whether it is to support their partners or help them avoid health problems, they now seem more inclined to get informed and consider new contraceptive options.

Science is therefore following this trend and developing a new range of methods that may, in the future, allow men to choose the one that is best suited to their needs.

For professional support, we are here for you.

We offer services that can help your doctor determine if a vasectomy is successful.

Do you have a medical prescription for this test? Please book an appointment online or call Biron Health Group’s customer service at 1-833-590-2712.

  1. Manuguerra-Gagné, R. “Une pilule contraceptive pour homme franchit une première phase de tests,” Radio-Canada, March 23, 2019, https://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1161307/pilule-contraceptive-homme-etude-clinique-fertilite-hormone.

  2. Robert, P. “De l’injection hormonale à la vasectomie : où en est-on de la contraception masculine ?” France culture, October 4, 2020, https://www.franceculture.fr/sciences/de-linjection-hormonale-a-la-vasectomie-ou-en-est-de-la-contraception-masculine.

  3. Robert, P. “De l’injection hormonale à la vasectomie : où en est-on de la contraception masculine ?” France culture, October 4, 2020, https://www.franceculture.fr/sciences/de-linjection-hormonale-a-la-vasectomie-ou-en-est-de-la-contraception-masculine.

  4. Ray, M. -C. “Vasalgel : ce nouveau contraceptif masculin est-il efficace ?” Futura santé, February 10, 2017, https://www.futura-sciences.com/sante/actualites/sexualite-vasalgel-ce-nouveau-contraceptif-masculin-il-efficace-62223/.

Biron Team
Biron Team
info@biron.com