Vasectomies are effective, but are not considered reversible (even though they can be). The withdrawal method (also called coitus interuptus ) is often used, but has a high failure rate. Leaving male condoms as the only effective and easily reversible way for men to take responsibility for fertility planning during sexual intercourse.
Compared with the numerous choices women have for both barrier and hormonal birth control, mens choices are few.
But there are several research endeavors underway exploring new methods of male birth control. There are also some very old methods of male birth control that may be effective, even if they are difficult to practice.
Here is a review of a variety of research initiatives looking at new forms of male contraception.
There are two main areas of research for male birth control:
- Hormonal contraception (like the female pill) which is currently being studied for men, in the form of implants and injections.
- Non-hormonal contraception that is either designed to impact the entire body, or methods that are more targeted
Hormonal male contraception research
Hormonal male contraception is likely to be available in the near future, and the results of a recent study in the medical journal The Lancet indicate that the contraception is reversible within a few months.
The study set out to determine whether one hormonal method, which inhibits sperm production using androgen or androgen-progestagen treatment, was reversible. It examined the results of thirty studies published between 1990 and 2005 which included 1500 men. What they were looking for was the point at which male sperm count returned to a threshold of 20 million per mL which is an indicator of fertility. The average time for sperm recovery to 20 million/mL was 3-4 months.
In a prepared statement lead author Dr Peter Liu from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said,
"Our data provide strong assurance that the previously described efficacy of hormonal male contraceptives is coupled with highly predictable recovery to semen characteristics that are compatible with fertility. These findings thereby increase the promise of new contraceptive drugs allowing men to share more fairly the satisfaction and burden of family planning."
According to Dr. Christina Wang, who co-authored the paper, the most likely way a new hormonal male contraception would be delivered is through injections or injections and implants. Dr. Wang says a male pill will take longer to develop. While there are many factors that can delay the process, Dr. Wang says that,
"a male hormonal contraception will be available to individuals in 8 to 10 years. A phase III study is ongoing in China and a phase IIB study is near completion. If the results are promising a phase III study will start and it will take about 5 to 7 years to complete and report sent to FDA for registration."
P. Liu, R. Swerdloff, P. Christenson, et. al. Rate, extent, and modifiers of spermatogenic recovery after hormonal male contraception: an integrated analysis.The Lancet 2006, 367:1412-1420.