Male contraceptive pill declared safe and won’t ruin your sex drive
When the female contraceptive pill first became available in the 1960s, it was a game changer. Prior to that, the only (mostly) reliable ways to avoid pregnancy were condoms and abstinence - but neither of those proved all that popular, especially with men.
Unfortunately, as well as granting women a degree of agency and freedom that they had never experienced before, the contraceptive pill also caused a lot of problems. Even today, despite having been around for more than half a century, the pill still has negative effects such as acne, mood disorders, and libido problems, and a lot of women find themselves asking: "Why can't the guys take something for a change?"
Well, according to new research, they might be able to very soon.
In a small study conducted by the University of Washington, 40 men underwent a trial of the male contraceptive pill. After taking the drug every day for a month, the men experienced a drop in their androgen and testosterone levels, thus suggesting that their sperm counts had been significantly reduced.
At this stage of the study, the team's goal was to assess whether or not the pill was safe in terms of how it affected men's health, and it has succeeded in that. No significant side effects (including libido loss) were reported, meaning the drug would be a viable option if it made it to market.
Now, the researchers must analyse how effective the pill is as a contraceptive. Right now, it appears that the drug would need to be taken for 60 to 90 days before it significantly affects sperm production - so it's clearly not as efficient as the regular combined pill.
"The goal is to expand contraceptive options and create a menu of choices for men like we have for women," explained Professor Stephanie page, the co-senior investigator on the trial. "We are neglecting a major potential user population with the limited options currently available to men."
Of the 40 participants, 30 had the real drug and 10 had a placebo.
The study did find some side effects - but none that were so different from those experienced with the female pill. Between four and six men reported fatigue, acne, and headaches, five men said they had a mildly decreased sex drive, and two mentioned mild erectile dysfunction. However, none of them felt the side effects impacted their regular sexual activity, and none of the men stopped taking the drug because of them.
The final product is still a way off for now, but this study has been a major breakthrough in making progress.
"Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities in one, will decrease sperm production while preserving libido," said co-senior investigator, Dr. Christina Wang. "Safe, reversible hormonal male contraception should be available in about 10 years."
"Men have really limited options when it comes to reversible contraception," Dr. Wang added. "When we ask men about hormonal compounds, about 50 per cent are willing to try this new method. And when you ask their partners, the percentage is even higher."
With any luck, then, the male pill will be on the market within a decade.