Welcome, Gentlemen, to the World of Chemical Contraception

Samantha Yakas, WLP Intern

Over the last year, birth control has become a frequent topic of debate in legislatures across the country. Issues regarding access to reproductive health care have received widespread media coverage. However, these debates make women and their bodies the central focus, an emphasis which may soon come to an end.

 In the past, the options for male birth control have been very limited, which has caused men to have essentially a third-party stake in the birth control argument. Legislative regulations for birth control have focused mainly on the pill and emergency contraception, which are largely considered “women’s issues.. However, birth control may soon be considered a “people’s issue” because of new developments in the realm of reproductive health. A promising male contraceptive is being tested that can be up to 100% effective. The injection is currently going through clinical trials and has not yet been FDA approved.

 The new contraceptive is a gel that is injected into the male vas deferens, and it prevents the sperm from being fertile. The procedure is effective for up to ten years, and it can be reversed with another shot if a couple later decides to have a baby. Long-term, the contraceptive works due to the effect it has on the Katnal1 gene. Scientists are currently testing the future contraceptive on infertile mice in an attempt to fix mutated Katnal1 genes and correct infertility. Though it is a long way from correcting human male infertility, it is a promising start.  

In addition to the injection, other ongoing research is looking at different methods through which male fertility can be controlled, including sperm mobility, sperm maturation, and the ways in which sperm is triggered. Currently, development is in progress of a male contraceptive that controls these mechanisms through a pill. The pill is still being tested and is not yet FDA approved. Earlier research examined a possible male contraceptive based on the body’s immune system response, but this option was not found to be effective. However, with hormone pills and the injection still being tested, the chances of success are on the rise for a new way for men to proactively prevent unwanted conception.

Contraception has always been treated as a women’s issue, which has influenced the way that legislation is perceived and discussed. With the development of chemical options for men these issues could begin to affect men’s lives far more directly, and thus radically change the debate on birth control.

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