By Rebecca Jones
There is a new birth control pill in development that is creating quite a buzz. Though much of the excitement comes from the fact that this pill seems to have no negative side effects and only has to be taken once every three months the real ground breaker is that this contraceptive is for men. Most of us immediately feel skepticism at the thought of male birth control but a new article in The Telegraph reveals how researchers in Israel believe that they may have finally found an alternative to the traditional female contraceptive pill.
For more than 40 years now birth control has given women numerous options to take control over their reproductive health. From rings, to pills, patches, to injections there has been a contraceptive for almost any need. Conversely men have always had 2 options; condoms or vasectomies. While birth control allowed women a new found sexual freedom it has not been without it’s risks. From “mild” side effects like mood swings, nausea, and irregular bleeding to much scarier health risks like blood clots, stroke, increased risks of certain cancers, heart attack and infertility, it’s no wonder so many women no longer wish to shoulder the contraceptive burden alone. If you are wondering why it’s taken so long for scientists to develop a male birth control pill there are a few key factors at play. First there has just been a general lack of interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies and the public hence very little funding has been made available. Second of all, up until now, men have been less than enthusiastic about taking over contraceptive duties, especially if there are any side effects involved. Thirdly there are basic physical reasons that have made male contraception harder to develop, picture trying to control millions of sperm rather than just one egg.
Up until now the only male contraceptive pills in development have used a combination of hormones to reduce sperm production but as with any hormone therapy the side effects acted as a large deterrent. Men would not only have to get regular shots of testosterone to compensate for the pills effects but could experience weight gain, depression, decreased libido, prostate gland problems, decreased muscle mass and even problems with facial hair growth. What makes the new pill so exciting is that rather than relying on hormones, researchers have discovered a molecule that can strip the sperm of a protein necessary for egg fertilization. It is believed that once fully developed the pill will be 100% effective, will have no negative side effects and will only need to be taken once every three months. At this stage of development the pill has only been tested in mice but the results are so encouraging that human trials should begin within a year and the product could be released on the market within 3.
Up until now, polls regarding men’s willingness to take birth control pills have been less than promising. Most men were not willing to take a pill that had sexual and physical side effects. On top of that most women polled did not trust their partners to remember to take an oral contraceptive on a daily basis. Developers believe that now that these two issues are resolved more men will be willing to take on contraceptive responsibility freeing women from the health risks and unpleasant side effects, that for almost half a century, they have had to endure.