A Guide to the Future of Male Birth Control
Innovations in male birth control are on the way. Would you take the plunge (or pill, or injection, or patch)?
The world population reportedly passed the 7 billion mark this Monday, causing mass panic, hysteria and a new wave of prophecies about the end of days. Not really, but it's still disconcerting that the world population has more than doubled in the last 60 years, so we asked our readers if they would take one for the 7 billion strong team and go on male birth control.
The results were pretty evenly split with 56% saying they would while 44% remained resistant to the idea. So, with several birth control options for men in the midst of clinical trials and on the verge of becoming approved, we break down the options for you.
Hold on to your scrota.
PILL - Dose: Daily
Hormones, which provide the basis for most female birth control options, are an obvious choice for men as well and most likely to get approved first. Currently, scientists are researching hormones like testosterone, progestin and androgen to inhibit sperm production. As with most hormones, there are some mild side effects like weight gain and acne, and the potential for more serious health risks such as heart problems and depression. As for long-term fertility issues, there weren't any problems; several volunteers had children immediately after they went off the drugs. Oddly, these hormones don't work on approximately 5% of men, and scientists can't pinpoint why.
PATCH/GEL - Dose: Varies
Topical hormone birth controls like patches and gels usually are testosterone-based and are applied to your skin. They work the same way as the pill, but the increase in testosterone caused mood swings for some men. Men who apply testosterone gel also have to avoid human contact for several hours to make sure they don't inadvertently expose someone else to it--which kind of destroys the purpose.
INJECTION - Dose: Lasts three months
Hormone injections for men release testosterone steadily over the course of three months with just one injection. They are similar to Depo-Provera shots for women, which contain progestin instead.
SKIN IMPLANT - Dose: Lasts 12 months
The skin implant, similar to the Norplant implant for women, is a matchstick-sized capsule that is implanted into a man's bicep. It contains a combination of the synthetic hormone progestin and androgen and lasts 12 months. It's most obvious downside is that the implant visibly bulges from your bicep, but clinical trial volunteers found that it actually worked in their favor as a talking point.
RISUG (REVERSIBLE INHIBITION OF SPERM UNDER GUIDANCE) - Dose: Lasts 10-15 years
Probably the most terrifying option (minus getting a full-on vasectomy), but also the most effective and least side effect-causing. A vasectomy requires a doctor to make a small incision into each scrotum, snip the vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm) and cauterize (burn) each end to seal it. Instead of snipping it, RISUG is a tiny injection of a nontoxic polymer that coats the inside of a man's tubes. Sperm actually has a negative charge that pushes it to reach eggs. The polymer, which has a positive charge, effectively destroys the sperm as it passes through, making it unable to fertilize eggs. Sperm production doesn't change and no hormones are necessary, and the procedure lasts between 10 and 15 years, but can be immediately reversed with a follow-up injection.