When you think about birth control, your mind probably goes to the pill for women. Researchers are working on one for men, too, but it’s not a reality yet. However, the solution is in sight as a study revealed that a male contraceptive drug that reduces fertility quickly and temporarily has shown promise in mice.
The drug, which inactivates an enzyme called soluble adenylyl cyclase (sAC), meant the mice produced sperm that could not propel themselves forward. This suggests the drug can reduce the movement of sperm, a key indicator of its function, scientists said.
The findings show that an on-demand male birth control pill is possible which could be a “game-changer” for contraception, according to co-senior authors of the study, Dr Jochen Buck and Dr Lonny Levin of the Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
Melanie Balbach, a postdoctoral associate, said, “Our inhibitor works within 30 minutes to an hour. Every other experimental hormonal or non-hormonal male contraceptive takes weeks to bring sperm count down or render them unable to fertilise eggs.”
Melanie Balbach added that since sAC inhibitors wear off within hours, it would be taken as often as needed, meaning it could allow men to make day-to-day decisions about their fertility.
Researchers found that while male mouse mating behaviour was normal, fertility was eliminated in the hours after the drug was given.
Contraceptive effectiveness was found to be at 100% in the first two hours, and 91% in the first three hours, according to the findings of the study. By 24 hours it had returned to normal levels. There were no negative health impacts when the drugs were continuously administered for six weeks.
Although the scientists administered these drugs via injection in most experiments, they found that mouse sperm mobility was also reduced by similar levels when taken orally. Further studies are needed, but if the drug development and clinical trials are successful, Dr. Levin said he hopes to walk into a pharmacy one day and hear a man request “the male pill”.
Still, men have several options to help avoid an unplanned pregnancy. Spermicide is one of them. Spermicide is a chemical that prevents pregnancy by killing sperm so they can’t fertilize an egg. The only spermicide available is nonoxynol-9 (N-9). It comes as a foam, jelly, tablet, cream, suppository, or dissolvable film.
Vasectomy is another method available for men. It is also known as “male sterilization.” With this, a surgeon cuts and seals off the tubes that your sperm pass through to reach your testicles. It’s the most effective birth control option for men. Only about 15 out of 10,000 couples get pregnant in the year after a man has the surgery. After a vasectomy, it takes about 3 months for your semen to be sperm-free.
However, vasectomy is pretty much permanent. One may likely never be able to have kids again. Though one can try to undo his vasectomy with another surgery, this reversal doesn’t always work.
Withdrawal (Pulling Out) is another method commonly used by men.It’s called “coitus interruptus” in Latin. Withdrawal is one of the oldest and simplest forms of birth control, but one of the least effective. You pull your penis out of the vagina before you ejaculate.
The pull-out method has a few things going for it. It has no side effects, and it costs nothing. And going bare doesn’t interfere with one’s sexual sensations. However, the method works only if you do it right. That means it needs to be pulled out soon enough, so no semen gets on or inside the partner’s vagina. It needs to be timed right and quickly enough. That can be hard to do. Looking at all these options available to men, the pills will certainly be a game changer.