Male Birth Control Is Coming, But Not As Soon As You'd Think



Friday was World Vasectomy Day, a dubious holiday if there ever was one, but an important reminder that there's still no male birth control pill on the market.

Research for a male pill launched right around the time when the search for a female pill began in the 1950s, but fell short of making it to market. Consider this statistic by the CDC: More than 80 percent of women surveyed between 2006 and 2010 reported using the pill, which has been offered for the past 50 years, but we still don't have a comparable pill for men. In the meantime, condoms continue to be the most popular form of contraception for men.

What gives?

There are a few standout reasons why an oral contraceptive for men isn't available. A big part of the problem is the side effect: Men fear that taking a male birth control pill could make them impotent. "There have been a lot of almost insurmountable side effects for every compound tested," said Dr. Elaine Tyler May, Ph.D., Regents Professor of American Studies and History at the University of Minnesota and author of America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril and Liberation. "The most significant is impotence — nobody wants to take a birth control pill that makes them impotent."

The other major problem? "Hormone-based efforts work well in 80 to 90 percent of men, bringing their sperm counts down to zero. It's reversible and pretty well tolerated. The problem is, it doesn't work in all men, and we don't know why," said John Amory, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington. And, that means it's not safe to be released in the marketplace just yet.

Plus, it's much easier to physiologically regulate one egg a month than hundreds of thousands of sperm a day. And, when you think of it as purely a numbers game, it's easy to see why a female pill makes a lot more sense than a male pill.

There are other potential male birth control options coming down the pike — a reversible vasectomy for one, that's quick, cheap and proven to be 100 percent effective. But, it still hasn't been approved in the U.S., though trials are supposed to begin as early as 2014.

In the meantime, women will continue to bear the brunt of birth control responsibility. The male pill is, allegedly, just five years away, but it remains to be seen whether men will actually use it. (Gizmodo)
birth-controlPhoto: Via Gizmodo.