Birth control options for men are poised to expand. Two new methods are currently in clinical trials, and the results are promising.
The birth control shot, a male variation of the Depo-Provera shot that has been available to women for many years, could eventually also become available to men. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that an injectable birth control formulation for men achieved a 96-percent success rate in preventing pregnancy, a higher effectiveness rate than other methods currently available to men, including the condom.
The injection works by drastically reducing the amount of sperm produced. In studies involving married men, the method was highly effective. However, side effects could delay or prevent the male birth control shot from reaching the market. Side effects include acne, depression and increased libido — the same side effects associated with hormonal birth control for women (minus the increased libido part). Despite these side effects, more than 75 of the 320 men who participated in the trial said they would be willing to use this form of birth control.
Another new option, the male birth control nasal spray, provides temporary and almost instant sperm-disabling effects. Sperm are rendered immobile and cannot swim to reach and fertilize the egg. The method works for several days, but is not permanent. It is expected to hit the market in humans following clinical studies on animals.
Both of these methods provide reversible birth control for men whose partners are unable to use hormonal birth control due to health reasons, or those who are not ready to undergo a permanent sterilization procedure.
They could also be a “safety net” for men who refuse to wear a condom. John Guillebaud, a professor of family planning and reproductive health at the University College London, said, "It would also help men who want to have control over their own fertility – for example, to ensure they do not get trapped into having a child by a woman who says she is on the Pill, but isn't.”
Of course, distrust goes both ways. There’s also the question of whether a woman will believe a man who says he’s on the pill.
If a man is truly serious about avoiding accidental fatherhood, the vasectomy is still the most reliable method of birth control. It’s more effective than both the pill and condoms. It’s fast, simple and inexpensive, and new no-scalpel methods have entered the scene. In fact, for some couples, it’s something to celebrate. Vasectomy parties are a new trend in among some couples who are quite happy to be child-free. If you get invited to one but can’t make it, you can even send a card.