Birth control has been widely used by many women across the U.S. mainly to provide protection against unwanted pregnancy. At present, many pharmaceutical companies are still developing new methods of birth control, from the popular birth control pills to implants, injections, and even sponges. In men, the only contraceptive method used by many would be condoms. Today, research and clinical trials are being done in order to develop yet another form of contraceptive, and that is male birth control. Developers believe that this new birth control for men will hit the shelves in about five to seven years.
Researchers are taking long in studying this method since they have found it challenging to control the male reproductive system. Women have a reproductive system that is regulated by a menstrual cycle, and is fertile for about 48 hours a month. Scientists were able to develop the birth control pill based on the regularity of menstruation. Unlike women, men produce new sperm 24/7 through a process called spermatogenesis, at a rate of one half billion sperms each day. Because of this male body phenomenon, developing an effective and reversible male birth control continues to challenge researchers.
From the clinical studies, different approaches in temporarily decreasing sperm production are being considered. For men, preventing sperm production, interfering with sperm function, and interrupting sperm transport are being closely studied. For women, the prevention of effective sperm deposit and blocking the sperm-egg interaction is seen as the focal point of contraception. From these strategies, preventing sperm production through the use of testosterone, either alone or in combination with another type of sex hormone called progestin, have shown the most promising results. A pill containing synthetic testosterone and progestin taken by men in a clinical test conducted in Italy showed evidence of lowering the sperm counts to very low levels. Half of the participants had sperm counts of zero after taking the pill, although it was also demonstrated to cause few undesirable side effects. In another type of study, testosterone injections were administered together with combined progestin and testosterone pills. This was shown to be more effective than the use of testosterone injections alone.
Even though male birth control pills seem like a great innovation, not all men agree. Some are nervous about the possible side effects that have resulted from a few of the clinical trials, including mood swings, acne, weight gain, lack of libido, aggressiveness, impotence, long term infertility, and lowered high density lipoprotein. An effective male birth control pill would undoubtedly put more responsibility for contraception on men, a possibility that goes against what men and women in many cultures are used to. Male discomfort with such an innovation, along with the time and high cost of conducting these clinical tests, are likely the main reasons why funding for research about this topic has been low, as well as postponing of developments and access to such male birth control pills. In the future, male birth control pill may become an easier way for men and the rest of society to swallow.