6/29/2012 2:23 PM
While most hetero couple agree that birth control should be a shared responsibility, in reality, it usually falls on the woman. The reason why is pretty obvious: while current birth control options for men are limited to condoms and sterilization, there are a wide range of choices available for women. However, scientists in Scotland have made a genetic discovery that could make non-hormonal, reversible male birth control possible.
The researchers discovered that changes to one genetic marker can prevent the body from producing viable sperm. They believe that an injection of viruses with the altered gene could render a man permanently infertile, resulting in a non-surgical alternative to vasectomies. They are still working on an option using the gene to create a reversible form of this male birth control. They are also hoping that a different alteration to the gene will be able to help men who are currently infertile gain the ability to father children.
Over the years, I've talked to many men who wish for better birth control options for them for a number of reasons. While it's wise to use condoms for STI protection, many couples prefer other methods once they are in established relationships. Many men say that they would feel more comfortable having more control over birth control options to reduce the chances of an unwanted pregnancy. Still others say they'd prefer an option that would allow their girlfriends or wives to stop taking hormonal birth control. While condoms are currently the only reversible option for the guys, they could have more choices soon.
Other male birth control options that are on the horizon:
- RISUG treatment - This is the treatment undergoing human trials in India, where a polymer gel is injected into the vas deferens, preventing sperm from leaving during ejaculation. When the man wishes to be fertile again, the treatment is reversible with a second injection. While a lot of men wince at the idea of injections in their scrotums, others are excited about the potential of this non-hormonal, reversible male birth control. It should arrive for trials in the United States soon.
- Male birth control topical gel - human trials of a potential male birth control gel containing testosterone and other sex hormones are currently underway in Los Angeles. In the trials, 89% of men who used the gel had sperm counts under one million per milliliter, which is a rate associated with very low birth rates. Researchers say the results are promising, and worthy of a second study.
- Male birth control pill - this is the white whale of reproductive medicine. While research has been performed since the 1960s, and many options have looked promising, so far, no one has gotten far in the quest to make a pill for the guys. However, with other possibilities nearing reality, it could be that this early dream could wind up obsolete.
Photo: Grace Herbert
Posted by Lara