Experts explain how close we are to a male contraceptive pill
Many have been expecting the introduction of the male contraceptive pill for years, but how soon will it really arrive?
All these years, men have had a fairly easy time protecting themselves from a hormone shot, not thinking about taking a pill or inserting a copper IUD at the same time each day.
But will 2021 be the year the tables finally turn? When will men have more responsibility to prevent unwanted pregnancies?
In 2019, the male contraceptive pill passed the first round of human safety tests. However, after the BBC, Doctors at the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting said it could be a decade before the pill becomes available to the general population.
The pill would have to be taken once a day and could serve as the preferred option over vasectomy or condoms, but does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
It would temporarily block hormones from making new sperm without lowering hormone levels enough that side effects would become a problem, the reported BBC.
It would also relieve the pressure on women in charge to use contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
By 2019, the latest version of the male contraceptive pill had been tested by researchers from LA BioMed and the University of Washington. The researchers concluded that the pill should actually achieve its original goal of temporarily lowering hormones.
The first phase of the safety testing consisted of 40 men and was reported as “promising” at the 2019 Endocrine meeting in New Orleans.
The study lasted 28 days and saw 10 men taking a dummy placebo pill and 30 taking one of the 11-beta-MNTDC, experimental male contraception pills.
Hormone levels required for sperm production decreased significantly in the men who tried the 11-beta MNTDC contraceptive pill compared to those who took the placebo pill.
The side effects of the male contraceptive pill tested were reportedly minor and mild BBC. Five out of 40 men said they had a “slightly decreased” sex drive. Two in 40 reported mild erectile dysfunction.
However, none of the 40 participants stopped taking the pill for any reason or side effect, and sexual activity was not decreased. The pill also passed all safety tests.
“Our results suggest that this pill, which combines two hormonal activities into one, decreases sperm production while maintaining libido,” Professor Christina Wang and her colleagues told the BBC. It has been reported that longer studies were only needed to verify that the pill was as effective as possible as a form of birth control.
Researchers are also exploring other methods of contraception for men, such as body gel, as well as non-hormonal options.
Speak with UNILAD, Dr. Edi-Osagie, a consultant gynecological surgeon and director of reproductive medicine and surgery at Central Manchester University Hospitals, said he thought the development of the male pill was a “great thing”.
âI think there is only one other option for us. So that men can actually use contraception, not just women, âhe said. While Dr. Edi-Osagie is looking forward to the male pill becoming a “routine service for men”, will all men want to use it?
Dr. Edi-Osagie noted that men with partners were more likely to take the male contraceptive pill for reasons of fairness and may have seen the effects certain contraceptives had on their other half.
The responsibility rests – wrongly – on women for so long that men have probably got used to it. So do you really want to take some of the pressure off women to prevent unwanted pregnancies?
Up until now, women have often been expected to take contraception into their own hands, with several methods of contraception available from pills and implants to IUDs.
The combined birth control pill for women, often just known as “the pill”, is made by the NHS contain as artificial versions of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. The average pill intake is 21 days, followed by a seven-day break leading to a period.
The pill does not protect against sexually transmitted infections and must be taken at the same time each day as it may be less effective in unwanted pregnancies. It is also believed that there is a link between the pill and depression.
I got the pill for the first time when I was 14 years old because I had extremely painful and heavy periods. The pill helped ease my discomfort and regulate my periods, but seven years later I worry that it could have had a very negative effect on my psychological wellbeing.
At the age of 21, I am afraid that I will stop taking my pill or change my contraceptive method. What happens if I stop taking the pill and realize that I am 10 times happier than usual? What if, after stopping the pill, I find that years of depression and anxiety were upset by that little pill I got when I was 14 when I didn’t fully understand what mental health is?
The pill for women has several risks and side effects. From headaches, nausea, weight gain, increased risk of blood clots and breast cancer to mood swings.
For men, however, contraceptives with minimal side effects are being developed and tested. Why are women and not men subjected to such contraception for so long?
Although there are many contraceptives available to women, the pill is often the most popular choice. However, it is not without its risks.
In conversation with UNILAD, Dr. Edi-Osagie found that the pill can be beneficial in regulating periods and making them more manageable. The pill also has the advantage that it can be taken at any age due to the “relatively safe” hormones.
Dr. Edi-Osagie agreed, however, that the pill can be more complex because it “can have psychological effects on people”. For some women, the benefits may outweigh the pitfalls, but Dr. Edi-Osagie warned that “just be careful and include this in the plan that everyone who takes the pill has”.
Men’s sperm is what makes women pregnant. So why are men no longer blamed for preventing unwanted pregnancies? Why was the pill invented for women and not men in the first place?
In conversation with UNILAD, Dr. Edi-Osagie agreed on how important and good it is to “actually target men” as “the level of ignorance in men is significantly higher than in women” when it comes to issues such as sexual health and the menstrual condition of women. While Dr. Edi-Osagie specializes in endometriosis, a chronic and often debilitating condition that affects one in ten women, his statement applies to many topics related to menstrual health, women’s wellbeing and reproductive health.
In discussing not just endometriosis, but women’s health and wellbeing, Dr. Edi-Osagie states that often people do not believe “listen to women’s symptoms” or do not accept them. He said how “many women are fobbed off by their GPs and hospital doctors” which can take “years and years” because they are told that symptoms are only due to menstrual pain.
In addition, the symptoms of conditions such as endometriosis and severe menstrual pain are often alleviated by prescribing the pill to women. As Emma Cox of Endometriosis UK said UNILAD, Prescribing birth control pills for period pain without investigating the cause of the pain can lead to longer diagnosis times and not really get to the bottom of the underlying disease.
The pill was a lifesaver for my own heavy periods, but I was wondering how it was affecting my psychological wellbeing – whether the attacks of anxiety and depression I had faced for the past seven years were caused by the hormones I was I put into my body daily.
Also, while the pill helped with my pain, it didn’t help any quicker diagnose what is the root of the problem with my uterus. Dr. Edi-Osagi remarked, âOne of the debates we have had in gynecology for many years is whether it is acceptable to start the pill in young girls before making an endometriosis diagnosis. This debate rages to this day and as I said, there is no right or wrong answer. ‘
Regarding the impact the pill can have on women’s mental health, Dr. Edi-Osagie that people “need to be aware of the various psychological effects that the pill may have on some people”.
However, when I was 14, I didn’t really understand what mental health was, what condition my own was in, and therefore what effects the pill might have. I was also not adequately educated about the possible effects on my psychological well-being – it was simply presented as a simple solution to my physical pain.
Dr. Edi-Osagie explains the different types of pill available to women when others are not doing as well in terms of their physical or mental wellbeing. âThe combination pill could have a different effect because it contains both estrogen and progesterone and thus could have different effects than the progesterone pill alone. Tablets that you take orally have different effects than contraceptives that you take through other roots such as skin patches or the vaginal route, âhe explained.
He commented on how GPs should look at “all of these options” [â¦] depending on the effect of the pill â.
I mean contraception is very effective, we now have different forms of contraception. The only thing that most of the options have mostly to do with the woman.
Dr. Edi-Osagie stated, “With what is going on in the world now, I think it is only right that men play their part and take some of that responsibility and take some of this action to actually prevent it Couples to contribute. “
He noted that “there is a lot of work in it” so men should rest assured that they know it is safe and effective.
The only downside Dr. Edi-Osagie has recognized so far is “inexpensive provision that is acceptable to the recipients”.
Dr. Edi-Osagie has not been able to confirm when the highly anticipated male contraceptive pill – or any other male contraceptive method – will be released. But he concluded: ‘We look forward to it being available.’
We can only hope that when the pill is finally released, other men will be just as open-minded.
If you have troubled thoughts and feelings, the Campaign against Living in Deprivation (CALM) is there to support you. They are open 365 days a year from 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 p.m. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a internet Service if you don’t like to talk on the phone.