Effective male birth control tested

    Courtesy of Joe Bruski / Flickr

    Of the 20 birth control methods listed on Planned Parenthood’s website, only six include men. Though all parties engaging in sexual activity should have responsibility in contraception, this unfortunately does not alway hold true, as most forms of contraception adjust the fertility of the female. It often seems then that contraception burdens only the female gender.

    However, a recent study, co-sponsored by the United Nations released evidence of an effective birth control shot for men.

    The study tested a shot that injects a synthetic form of testosterone and a derivative of the female hormone progesterone (which is in the birth control pill) on men ages 18-45, seeing if this combination of hormone would lower men’s sperm count and be considered effective as a birth control method. For the 274 participants who carried out the trial, the shot was 96 percent effective.

    Only four pregnancies occurred during the trial, all during a phase of the trial where other forms of contraception were required. More than 75 percent of the participants said they would be willing to use the shot as a form of contraception after the study.

    Yet this highly effective shot won’t be available to men anytime soon. The study was cut short due to the shot’s side effects.

    Twenty participants dropped out of the study. They had experienced muscle soreness, acne, mood swings and depression. All of these are side-effects which sound familiar to women, too.

    NPR science correspondent Rob Stein said the shot elicited “severe emotional problems…more than we see in the birth control pill.” However Stein also shared that while women have the added motivation of not wanting their body to experience pregnancy, “men do not suffer any risks if they get someone else pregnant.” The lack of this risk factor then adversely affects their willingness to endure hormonal pain.

    In all forms of hormonal birth control, emotions and health are at risk. Added hormones essentially stunt the body, inhibiting its normalcy and adding imbalance to emotions. Women who take birth control are at risk for depression, and must continually deal with symptoms like weight gain, acne and mood swings. All this is endured to benefit both parties who enjoy engaging in sex.

    More than 62 percent of women aged 15 to 44 use some form of contraception. This age range, which encompasses college years, reveals that most women, who statistically prefer to have two or three kids, must take birth control for about 30 years.

    This 30-year sacrifice that women make doesn't look like it will become men's responsibility, too, anytime soon. Researchers involved in the study think the release of this male hormone is a long time coming. Scientists working on the pill are attempting to come up with a better balance of hormones that will ease the deemed “unsafe” side-effects.

    According to CNN, Dr. Seth Cohen, a urologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, now wonders whether birth control is safe for anyone.

    “This may wake us up to finding out better hormonal contraceptives for women, right?” said Cohen. “Because certainly, I know that a lot of young women don't get the type of counseling that maybe they deserve when it comes to contraception. Just a [prescription] and a visit to Duane Reade is all they get, and that may not be enough."

    For most college students, the idea of a male birth control option is exciting: it opens up a more equal dynamic among the sexes. Yet, effective male birth control may still have some time before it is accepted as a cultural norm. Until then, women are left the responsibility and burden of dealing with the hormones and the side effects — and yes, many of the same side effects in the study — that were deemed too “dangerous” for men. However, a 96 percent success rate for male birth control shows that progress is being made in the right direction.


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