How Does Male Birth Control Work, and Where Is It?
Birth control for men is a topic that’s been on the horizon for decades but doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Is effective birth control for men on the way? If so, how does male birth control work? And why is it taking so long to catch up with its female counterpart?
The most commonly used contraceptive methods are famously flawed. Condoms have a real world use effectiveness of around 85% because people often forget to use them or don't use them correctly, the pill and other hormonal methods are known for their varied and unpleasant side effects, sterilization is difficult to reverse, and intrauterine devices (IUDs) can have unwanted side effects and be painful to insert.
What else is out there and when will male birth control be available?
With the issue of sex comes the issue of contraception.
Birth control has preoccupied the human psyche ever since people discovered the wonders of sex without reproduction.
Records of birth control methods date as far back as ancient Mesopotamia in around 1850 BC, when papyrus scrolls show directions for cervical caps made from plants and lint. Different human civilisations have discovered creative forms of birth control across the centuries, varying from herbal medicines to following ovulation cycles.
Barrier methods like condoms have existed since the Renaissance in the 1400s. Today, we are still searching for the perfect way to control pregnancy while avoiding abstinence. And, increasingly, science and society and turning to men to take responsibility for their sperm.
So, what’s the deal with male birth control in 2022? Here are answers to your most-asked questions about contraception for men.
Birth Control for Men: All Your Questions Answered
Why is there no male birth control?
Firstly, it’s important to say that while there is far less available birth control for men than for women, it does exist: condoms and vasectomies. Nonetheless, the burden of preventing pregnancy has historically fallen on women.
Why is there no male birth control equivalent to female contraceptives? There are several compounding reasons for this.
Various male birth control methods have been in development for decades (since the 1970s at least), but progress has been slow. These scientific developments can be delayed for various reasons, including regulatory and funding issues and methods not meeting scientific standards.
When the female oral contraceptive pill first came to market in the West in the 1950s there were far fewer safety guidelines, meaning it reached consumers quickly. Today, a male contraceptive method has to meet higher standards. It must be effective, cheap, easy to use, readily available, reversible, and without serious side effects.
In recent decades, many male contraceptive pills have been blocked because they were found to cause the kinds of unpleasant side effects women have faced for decades, like headaches, acne, weight gain, and mood swings - side effects that have only gained wide attention in recent years.
Another reason for a lack of available birth control for men is that female birth control was viewed as widely successful for so long, so there wasn’t a pressing need for its development.
However, crucial answers to the question Why is there no male birth control? relate to the prejudiced social beliefs that pregnancy is a “woman’s issue” and that men can’t be trusted to take it reliably. These beliefs are slowly changing, and many studies have found that most men would be willing and happy to take birth control into their own hands.
Is there birth control for men?
The short answer is: yes, but not much. As we’ve mentioned, the only available and effective birth control methods available to men today are condoms and vasectomies. The withdrawal method is arguably a form of male birth control in 2022, but it is dangerous to rely on this alone to avoid pregnancy.
New male hormonal/non-hormonal, reversible contraceptive methods are being developed and researched as we speak, including male forms of the oral contraceptive pill and hormonal gels, but none are currently on the market.
How does male birth control work?
Different male contraceptives work in different ways, though they all aim to stop sperm from fertilising an egg, either by reducing sperm count or preventing sperm from reaching the egg in the first place.
Condoms are a barrier method that work by blocking sperm cells in semen from swimming up the cervix and finding the egg. Vasectomies work by preventing sperm made in the testes from reaching the penis.
How does male birth control work? Other male birth controls in development function in varying ways. They can take the form of pills, injections, vaccines, gels, or even devices similar to the IUD that are placed inside the sperm duct to filter out sperm cells.
Some of these methods work by stopping or slowing the creation of sperm, preventing sperm from leaving the body, keeping sperm from fertilizing an egg, or slowing down sperm to keep them from reaching their destination.
When will male birth control be available?
While several male birth controls are in the pipeline, it’s impossible to say if they will be successful and if or when they will be available to the public. It could still be years before male birth control besides vasectomies and condoms are available.
There is still so much unknown about male birth control. Who knows what will happen in the next few years? Let’s pray together for an end to the waiting and for effective ways to keep having safe and satisfying sex!