How far away are we from birth control for men?

Birth control for women has been around for decades – but when is it the men’s turn?

By Monique McKenzie
The invention of hormonal birth control revolutionised women's healthcare, but for the past 70-odd years it's meant most of the contraceptive burden has been on women.
Now, a male contraceptive pill has passed the first stage of safety trials. But how far away is it from shelves?
Research carried out by the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Washington showed promising results for the pill, also known as 11-beta-MNTDC.
The doctors behind the study say the first trial involved 40 healthy men, aged 18 to 50.
Despite low testosterone levels in the men taking the drug, researchers reported "no serious adverse events".
However, participants had issues with fatigue, headaches, acne (side effects that women are already well accustomed to!).
Five men reported a "mildly decreased" sex drive. Two experienced mild erectile dysfunction, although reportedly "sexual activity was not decreased".
The report concludes: "Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities in one, will decrease sperm production while preserving libido."
The contraceptive works by mimicking testosterone through the rest of the body, though this isn't concentrated enough in the testes to support sperm production.
Researchers are also looking at different means of a contraceptive, including an injection and a topical gel.
Trials in the UK in 2016 showed a contraceptive injection for men was almost as effective as the female pill – 96 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy. Side effects of the male contraceptive injection are still being tested.
While it could still be 10 years before we see male contraception as a readily available product, we're moving closer to bringing gender equality to safe sex.

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