Introduction to Male Birth Control
When it comes to birth control, women are usually the ones that come to mind. Women have a variety of options: hormonal pills, injections, patches, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, and surgical procedures. Traditionally, men had far fewer options at their disposal: condoms or a vasectomy.
But recently, an exciting new development has been making headlines. An experimental male birth control pill may be on the horizon. But is it for real? And will it be available for use soon? This article will describe what this experimental drug is, how it works, and what you can expect.
Description of male birth control
Male birth control refers to any method of contraception used by men to prevent pregnancy. Currently, men can use condoms or have a vasectomy.
What is the new male birth control pill?
On February 14 2023, a new study published in Nature Communications caught the eye of health reporters across the world. This study describes a new compound which prevents pregnancy with 100% efficacy when given to male mice, suggesting it may be promising as a future male birth control pill.
The newly discovered compound, called TDI-11861, showed 100% efficacy for preventing pregnancy from male mice who were administered it. This compound works by temporarily making sperm immobile so they cannot swim to fertilize an egg. In this study, a single dose made sperm immobile in about 15 minutes and lasted up to 2.5 hours. The next day, the male mice had a full return of fertility. This means that if a male birth control pill can be developed from this, this pill can be used on-demand before sexual activity. This would represent a breakthrough that is much more convenient compared to currently available birth control pills. Currently, female birth control pills rely on hormone changes so it can take up to a week or more to start working. Once stopped, normal fertility may also take 1-2 months to return to normal.
Researchers did not observe any changes in the mice’s behavior for 24 hours after taking the experimental drug. While promising, it’s a good idea to remember that animal studies don’t always extrapolate to humans. Many more studies are needed to fully understand if this experimental drug is safe.
So how far away are we from an on-demand male birth control pill being available at your pharmacy? Well, it’s still at least a few years, if not longer. Before a drug can be approved and marketed for sale, it must be thoroughly studied for effectiveness and safety. First, scientists study it in a small group of human volunteers. If results are promising, larger clinical trials are done. Finally, the approval process with a health regulator like Health Canada may take up to 2 years by itself.
Before a male birth control pill is available, there are some other options available.
Other types of male birth control
Male birth control comes in different forms, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look closer at the most common forms of male birth control available today.
Vasectomy is a permanent form of male birth control. It involves surgically cutting and sealing the tubes that transport sperm. This prevents sperm from mixing with semen and prevents fertilization. Vasectomy is a very effective form of birth control, but it is also permanent and generally not reversible. Additionally, it usually takes a few months before all the sperm is cleared from the system.
Condoms are a type of barrier contraception that prevent sperm and egg from meeting and being fertilized. Male condoms are cheap, easy to access, and highly effective when used properly. They can be made from latex, polyurethane, or sheepskin. In addition to contraception, condoms have the added benefit of preventing sexually transmitted infections.
An exciting new scientific study showed that an experimental drug was able to immobilize sperm temporarily in male mice for 2.5 hours after a single dose. In the mice study, it had 100% efficacy at preventing pregnancy. This might be a promising breakthrough for contraception, if a drug can be developed that allows men to take it on-demand before sexual activity to prevent pregnancy. However, much more research is required before a medication like this can be developed for human use.
In the meanwhile, men do have the options of using condoms or having a vasectomy to prevent pregnancy. As well, men can discuss contraceptive options like female birth control pills, intrauterine devices and more with their partners.