Tara Lepore | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Non-Hormonal Male Birth Control Is Closer Than Ever After Successful Tests On Monkeys

Non-Hormonal Male Birth Control Is Closer Than Ever After Successful Tests On Monkeys

The Debrief: Non-hormonal options are being looked into after trials for hormonal injections were scrapped when men 'experienced unpleasant side effects'...

In case you haven't already heard, the Pill might not be all it's cracked up to be. It's been around for half a century and is used by millions of women across the world, but The Debrief's investigation into its common side effects has further sparked the need for alternative options. Today, a study revealed that male contraception is another step closer after monkeys were injected with a gel that prevented pregnancies in their lady-friend primates. The successful results mean it could work in humans, and it's estimated to hit the US market by 2020. 

Vasalgel, a gel that dissolves sperm before it reaches an egg, is the first long-term, reversible and non-hormonal method available for men. The fact it’s non-hormonal means it’s a bit like the coil, being injected into a guy’s sperm-carrying tubes blocking any chance of the little guys reaching an egg. It's a long-lasting method that scientists hope could be fully reversed with a second injection that dissolves the gel barrier and makes the guy 100% fertile again. 

Considering the many different methods on offer for women, contraception options for men haven’t changed in over a century. There's the trusty male condom (well, it's 98% effective) and the withdrawal method (which isn't the most reliable, let's be honest). A vasectomy, an irreversible operation which permanently blocks sperm from leaving the testes, doesn't offer the freedom to have kids later in life, so the responsibility of contraception - particularly in long-term relationships - often falls to the woman. 

The journey to get more methods of male contraception has been a long one, due to a lack of funding from reluctant pharmaceutical companies who’d rather make their bucks selling female birth control every month (the long-term effect of Vasalgel is less profitable). 

Earlier this year, a study into hormonal injections for men was halted early because of ‘unpleasant side effects’ such as nausea and depression experienced by 20 of the men participating - side effects that 100 million women across the world currently using hormonal contraception might just also be prone to experiencing. The study showed that this male hormonal injection was 96% effective in preventing pregnancy, a similar success rate to the combined pill. But would guys even use it? Fifteen years ago, 55% of 9,000 men asked in a survey said they’d be interested in using a male contraceptive - but a similar study carried out in 2014 said only one in 10 men would, with many saying it was a ‘women’s responsibility’.

The next step is to test if Vasalgel is 100% reversible in the monkeys, something that has previously worked in smaller animals. So - again - it's not quite here yet, but it's definitely progress. 

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Ask An Adult: What Do Experts Think About The Contraceptive Pill And Mental Health?

A New Study Has Found That Male Contraceptive Injection Is As Effective As The Female Pill

STI-Detecting Condoms Exist But Does Anyone Really Want Them?

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