Male Contraception Options
There is little that men can do when it comes to birth control. They either use a condom or undergo some surgical procedure that keeps them from impregnating a lady. There is currently no hormonal contraceptive in the U.S. that men can use for this purpose.
But this narrative looks like it’s about to change. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are currently in search of people – both male and female – that they can use in testing a gel for men that could help with contraception.
Men will only need to rub the gel into the shoulders daily. This is expected to bring down their sperm count gradually until they become unable to make a woman pregnant.
The gel was formulated by the Population Council. NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) is helping with the enrollment of more than 400 people for the testing.
“This is the first time that men are using it as part of a couple to test for effectiveness,” Dr. Diana Blithe, head of Contraceptive Development Program at the NICHD, said.
The Population Council said in a statement that about 40 percent of all pregnancies every year across the globe are not planned for, with this having unpleasant effects on the health of women and children. This obviously explains why researchers are interested in making contraceptives also available for men.
About the contraceptive
The gel named NES/T features a compound known as segesterone acetate along with testosterone. The former is known more under the brand name Nestorone.
Segesterone acetate contains progestin, which inhibits the production of testosterone in the testes. This, in turn, causes sperm counts to fall, possibly to levels that make it impossible to get a woman pregnant.
The gel gets absorbed into a man’s body when it is rubbed into the shoulders and back. This method of application was decided on due to the fact that Nestorone cannot be absorbed by the body when men take it orally. Testosterone also does not last a full day in the body when taken via the oral route.
The two substances are more effective and stay longer in the body when applied through the skin.
According to Blithe, the addition of a dose of testosterone in the gel helps to counter the possible side effects of Nestorone. These include loss of muscle and poor libido.
Nestorone is also used as a contraceptive in women. The Population Council has already tested a combination with estradiol for suppression of ovulation in women.
Promising efficacy and safety
So far, researchers have found Nestorone to be effective for birth control. It is also well-tolerated, based on evidence in women.
“If we are talking about a daily pill in women, if they use it perfectly, the failure rate is extremely low,” Blithe stated. “In typical use, the failure rate is 7 percent.”
According to her, the failure rate in typical use with condoms is 12 percent.
The next thing on the agenda for the researchers is to find willing subjects to test the contraceptive gel on. They seek to know how well people will receive it and whether men will use it as necessary.
Blithe was positive that men will be willing to use the gel. She noted that the main issue will be about them forgetting to use it as directed.
However, men can afford to forget to use the gel for a day, maybe two. But the efficacy will drop significantly when they do not use it for three days or more.
The researchers aim to complete the current trial by 2021. The men will be required to use the gel until their sperm counts drop low enough, and then their partners will also stop contraception.