Will there ever be a hormonal contraception method for men?
Although there are a wide variety of contraceptive options for females to prevent pregnancy, the choices available for men to have control over their fertility have not changed for over a century. These choices either have a lower efficacy, such as condoms or the withdrawal method which have an efficacy rate of 82% and 78% respectively, or are intended to be permanent, such as a vasectomy. Various studies have worked on developing a hormonal contraceptive for men with limited success.
One promising study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism last year described the progress of a male contraceptive injection. The injection contained two hormones: progestogen which acts on the brains pituitary gland and affects sperm production, and testosterone to counteract the testosterone-reducing effects of progestogen.
In the study, 320 healthy males aged 18-45 years that had been in long-term monogamous relationships with females for at least 1 year and had a healthy sperm count of at least 15 million/ml received injections every 8 weeks for over a year. Once the injection had taken affect (sperm count had dropped below 1 million/ml), their partners stopped using other birth control methods.
Semen samples from the participants showed that at 24 weeks the sperm counts of 274 participants had dropped to this level and overall the study showed the injection to be 96% effective, with only 4 pregnancies recorded amongst the partners of 266 participants.
One of the study’s authors, Dr Mario Philip Reyes Festin, of the World Health Organisation stated that “The study found it is possible to have a hormonal contraceptive for men that reduces the risk of unplanned pregnancies in the partners of men who use it”.
However, despite the fact that 75% of the participants said they would continue using the injection, 20 men dropped out of the study due to associated side effects. These side effects included mood disorders, acne, muscle pain, increased libido and pain at the injection site, however there was also 1 case of depression, 1 case of an intentional paracetamol overdose and 1 case of an irregular heart rate that were judged to be possibly related to the injection. The trial was eventually discontinued following an evaluation by an external safety review panel who determined that the risks to participants outweighed the potential benefits.
The female oral contraceptive pill (which contains either a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, or solely progesterone) was first launched in 1962 and is widely used across the globe. However, it does have many associated side effects including mood disorders, depression, nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, decreased libido and the disruption of the menstrual cycle, as well as increasing your risk of blood clots, heart attacks and stroke.
Despite this, progresses in male hormonal contraceptives are being delayed due to concerns over similar side effects.
Hopefully the developments in non-hormonal male contraception will be more successful and reach the market to allow men to aid their partners and take control of their own fertility.
Link to Vasalgel article