Men and women across the globe have been waiting on the male contraceptive pill for a hot minute – but how close are we, really?
Over the years, men have had it pretty easy when it comes to contraception – no need to ingest any hormones or insert a copper coil. But back in 2019, the male contraceptive pill passed its first round of human safety tests.
More recently, doctors at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting revealed that the pill may still take about a decade to be made available to the general public. However, its development remains crucial – since the pill could act as a preferred mode of contraception to a vasectomy or condoms.
Just like the female pill, it would be required to be taken once daily, and it won’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases. It would simply block new sperm cells from being created (temporarily), without lowering hormone levels to the extent that any side effects would become an issue. Transversely, this would relieve the pressure on women to take contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
By 2019, the latest version of the male pill had been tested by researchers at LA BioMed and the University of Washington, who concluded that it should indeed achieve its initial goals of temporarily lowering male hormones. The first phase of tests involved 40 men and was reported as looking ‘promising’.
The study was carried out over 28 days and saw 10 men take a dummy ‘placebo’ pill, and 30 take one of the 11-beta-MNTDC, aka experimental male contraceptive pills. Those who trialled the actual pill saw the hormone levels required for sperm production drop significantly.
Thankfully, as per the BBC, the reported side effects were few and mild. Only five out of the 40 men said that they had a ‘mildly decreased’ sex drive. Meanwhile, 2 out of 40 reported mild erectile dysfunction.
However, none of the participants stopped taking the pill for any reason, and the pill passed all safety tests. Longer trials will be carried out in order to check that the pill works as effectively as it possibly can. Professor Christina Wang added, ‘Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities in one, will decrease sperm production while preserving libido’.
Elsewhere, researchers are looking into other modes of contraception for men, like body gel and other non-hormonal options.
Undeniably, the responsibility of pregnancy control has unfairly fallen upon women for many years, but there are several men ready to relieve some of that pressure. The female pill contains an artificial version of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone but is regretfully clinically linked to depression.
Other than that, the female pill brings multiple risks and side effects, ranging from headaches, nausea, weight gain, and increased risk of blood clots to severe mood swings and breast cancer. Luckily, though, the male pill that is currently in testing has been found to have minimal side effects.
A specialist, Dr. Edi-Osagie, even noted how the pill ‘can impact on people psychologically’. Dr. Edi-Osagie went on to emphasise how important and great it was to ‘actually target men’ due to how ‘the level of ignorance amongst men is significantly higher than amongst women’ when it comes to subjects such as sexual health and women’s menstrual wellbeing.
Dr Edi-Osagie continued, ‘With what’s going on in the world now, I think it’s only right that men play their part and take some of that responsibility and take some of that action to actually help provide contraception for couples.’ He also remarked how ‘a lot of work has gone into it’, so men should feel reassured that they know it’s safe and effective.
As it stands, the only drawback the doctor acknowledges is how to provide the male pill ‘in a cost-effective way that is acceptable to the recipients who take it’.
What are your thoughts about the male pill?