Women have pioneered the success of the contraceptive pill at some cost to their own health, so it's high time that men stepped up for a little contraceptive research. But the question posed by an article in the Daily Mail this week asked "Are you man enough to have the contraceptive jab?". Well, are you?
Researchers are on their way to discovering safe birth control for men, aside from the condom of course.
Here are a few versions of the male contraceptives that could be on their way to a pharmacy near you within the next decade:
The monthly injection
This injection will use testosterone to control sperm production. According to the Daily Mail, it will be injected into your buttocks and will last for a month. Trials in China have been quite successful with only one in 100 men impregnating a woman. The only problem is that side effects include a lower sex drive and mood swings.
A blast of ultrasound
One blast of ultrasound to the testicles could stop sperm production for as long as six months. Research into this method by scientists at the University of North Carolina could offer a low-cost and effective birth control method, says Dr James Tsuruta who is leading the research. The question remains whether or not this method has a more permanent effect, but a report by the BBC says that the scientists continue to refine their research to ensure maximum safety and efficacy.
The "dry" orgasm
While it's described as "dry", this method will only prevent sperm from travelling from the testes to the prostate. In other words, orgasm will still have fluid, but without any of your little swimmers coming to the party.
The drugs would be a pill you'd take two to three hours before you anticipate having sex, will last for about 24 hours and will affect how the muscles in your penis work. The idea is inspired by the side-effects caused by two different drugs. The first drug called phenoxybenzamine was used to treat high blood pressure while the other is a discontinued schizophrenia drug. Both of these rendered men infertile because they have an effect on the autonomic nervous system — that part of your brain that controls your unconscious muscle movements.
Research done by Dr Nnaemeka Amobi and Dr Christopher Smith at King’s College, London found that muscle contractions in the penis — particularly those around the vasa deferentia, which transport the sperm up to the prostate — did not work as they should when men took the drug. Instead, the result of exposure to either of the drugs meant that muscles would clamp down on the vasa deferentia, thus preventing sperm from travelling up toward the prostate. The only catch is that side-effects don’t stop at infertility, meaning there's still much research to be done before the male pill is introduced into the market. And the larger question at hand: would men actually remember to take it?
The ultimate: snip-snip
Well, we all know that this would be 100 percent effective, but the vasectomy is a tad too final for many men's liking. And understandably so. What if you want more children?
Just so you know, the procedure is a quick one that can be done in the outpatient section of a hospital. And yes, you do get a local anesthetic to numb the area.
The procedure itself involves having the tubes that transport sperm from the testicles to the prostate, cut. The doctor will cut these tubes called vas deferentia and seal it by cauterisation or by clamping it. Sperm continues to be produced in the testes but this is broken down and absorbed by the body. Best you be very sure that you want to go through with this, because vasectomy reversal is a costly procedure.
It's getting hot in here
If you're a bit of a hippy then this method might be for you, especially if you've tried every other contraceptive for her and none are successful. One man who practices the testicular heating process explains how he and his wife had tried all kinds of contraceptives with little success. He got down to researching and found that daily testicular heating was one way he could get his sperm count down. This is because prolonged exposure to a higher temperature actually kills sperm. And since your testicles are usually cooler than the rest of your body, the method of heating them up by one or two degrees is not difficult.
There are two ways of doing this. First, you can wear suspensory briefs which hold your testicles closer to the body, thus warming them and slowly reducing your sperm count without any adverse side-effects. The second method is exposing your testicles to an external heat source such as a sitz bath consistently for about 30 minutes a session. Depending on the method, this treatment could continue for three weeks daily a few times a year.
Some think that this method is ideal and that it has little or no lasting effect once the treatment is stopped, while others are concerned that more permanent damage is done. Either way, it's natural, and aside from using a condom, it's the only other way that you could take control of contraception as a man at the moment.
The question is, would you be brave enough to try any of these methods if they were to reach human trials?