Should Men Take Birth Control Pills?

male hand with pills

There’s been talk of birth control pills for men for years, but does anyone really believe it will ever really happen? And, come on, ladies. Would you trust your guy to take it even if it does become a reality? After all, men aren’t the ones who get pregnant, so how invested could they possibly be?

The answers on male birth control pills might surprise you. For one thing, researchers are still working on pills and other methods specifically for men. And guys are more willing than you might think to take them.

In a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 66 percent of men said they were up for taking birth control pills, 44 percent were willing to get a birth control shot and 36 percent were open to a birth control implant, according to U.S. News & World Report. Hmm. Does that sound like your husband and other guys you know? In any case, it’s heartening if the men participating were being honest and not just trying to make themselves look good.

The obstacles against male contraceptive options other than condoms and vasectomies are many — among them the fact that it’s harder to stop sperm than eggs. Also at issue is the fact that the female pill industry is extremely successful and pharmaceutical companies don’t want to rock that boat. Then there’s the fear of lawsuits, the long time it takes to develop new drugs and the financial backing needed to make it happen.

“It’s going to have to be at least as good as the best female contraceptives out there,” Joseph Tash, a reproductive biologist at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told U.S. News. Any male birth control would have to “have virtually no side effects for them to be attractive” to both potential users and the drug companies who’d need to sign on to manufacture them.

Still, there are real birth control options for guys in the works that we might see on the market before too much longer. Here are a few of the top contenders:

1. The pill for men. Scientists have been trying to perfect the male version of the pill for a while — with some success. Tash and another researcher  have been working to reformulate a cancer-busting drug known as lonidamine, which had the side effect of blocking sperm production and lowering fertility in men. What they came up with was a new pill called Gamendazole, which doesn’t inhibit sexual function but does stop sperm from being viable. So far, they’ve had 100 percent success in rendering rats infertile and have been able to reverse the effects of the drug within eight to 10 weeks after taking the animals off it. They’ve also had good results in testing on primates and rabbits. They’re hoping they’ll be granted human clinical trials soon. But they don’t foresee the male pill being available in the next two years; Tash predicts it will likely be in the 5-10-year range. Other pills are also being studied as potential birth control for men.

2. Implants. These are similar to the birth control implants already available to women, except instead of injecting progestin, which stops ovulation, they would release a synthetic form of testosterone that would hinder the growth of sperm cells. But researchers aren’t very far into the testing and research phases, so seeing implants for guys on the market is likely still a long way off.

3. Gels. A few male contraceptive gels are being developed. They’d be applied to the skin and would release testosterone and progestin to halt the production of sperm without affecting sex drive or sexual function. Researchers are working to make sure the gels would allow sperm count and fertility to go back to normal once a man stops using them.

4. Vasalgel. This is a sperm-thwarting gel that is injected directly into the vas deferens in a non-surgical version of a vasectomy. So far, scientists have successfully tested it on animals. Clinical trials on people are slated for later this year. It is designed to be reversible.

Once guys have a bigger array of birth control options just for them, maybe they will start bearing more of the brunt of preventing pregnancy and take some of the burden off women. And you know what? Maybe they should. It would be awfully nice to share the responsibility of birth control with the men in our lives.

Do you think men should take birth control pills and would you trust your guy to do it right?