A Male Birth Control Gel Is Getting Closer to Reality
by Michelle Fay Cortez
(Bloomberg) — U.S. government scientists will test an experimental birth control method for men, which would be a major advance in contraception and bring more equality to a family planning burden borne largely by women.
The study is being conducted by the National Institutes of Health and will involve 420 couples. The experimental treatment is a gel, applied to the back and shoulders, that combines two types of hormones to halt the production of sperm while maintaining the energy and libido benefits of testosterone.
“This gel would be the first user-controlled method of contraception for men since the introduction of the condom,” said Diana Blithe, chief of the contraceptive development program at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “We hope it will be an acceptable form of contraception that couples will want to use.”
The gel is a mix of progestin and testosterone, and researchers will examine how successful the gel is at preventing pregnancies. People who rely on condoms have a 12 percent to 13 percent failure rate, while relying on hormone-based birth control pills fails about 7 percent of the time.
“There are some men who may like to control their own fertility, who may or may not be in a monogamous relationship,” said Blithe, who is an investigator for the trial, in a telephone interview. “This would be an option for them.”
A New Method?
Millions of women around the world use birth control, which has been around for decades as a reliable, relatively convenient form of contraception. While many women would likely want to maintain control over the contraceptive method used in a sexual encounter, some either can’t take the pill or prefer not to.