A new form of male contraception could be on the horizon, thanks to a pioneering injection developed by medical researchers. The hormone-based jab has been developed to suppress the sperm count in testicles by acting on the pituitary gland in the brain.
While this new form of male contraception shows promise, the initial study that tested this injection had to be put on hold due to participants suffering from severe negative side-effects. However, the researchers behind the report remain hopeful for the future and say that the findings confirm that a male hormonal contraceptive is possible.
What is it?
The medical trial involved 320 men between the ages of 18 and 45 who received two injections every eight weeks. Most of the men in the study were in long-term relationships and had been relying on female hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy.
After an initial screening period, these men were invited to take part in the study for one year. During this time they were asked to rely solely on the injection for contraception.
The jab worked by lowering the sperm count the men produced. While the average, healthy male in this age group has between 40 and 300 million sperm per millilitre, this figure was reduced to just one million per millilitre in the study participants. This proved to be a success and only four pregnancies occurred in all 320 test subjects.
Scientists first started looking at the possibilities of developing a male hormonal contraception back in the 1950s, but one of the biggest challenges has been the negative side-effects caused by the disruption of hormones. The researchers behind this test aimed to combat this issue by adding testosterone to counter-balance the reduction of the hormone during treatment.
There’s no question that the scientists still haven’t found the right balance yet, as too many men struggled with side-effects for the study to continue. However, this is still being worked on and researchers are hopeful that they will find the right balance. So might it be time for men across the UK to start asking themselves whether they’d use it?
The main benefit of the male contraceptive injection is its proven effectiveness. 274 out of 320 men who took part in the study were found to have a reduced sperm count of just one million per millilitre within 24 weeks of taking part. The fact that four unplanned pregnancies occurred during the study means that the contraceptive success rate (1.57 per 100) is almost equal to the female contraceptive pill.
Despite many participants reporting severe side-effects, around 75% of the men who were involved in the study said that they would be willing to use the jab in the future.
Scientists had to stop enrolling new participants for this injection, due to the large number of volunteers who dropped out or reported severe side-effects. The most common complaints were mood swings and depression.
Other participants also reported muscle pain, acne and an increased sex-drive. One member of the study group committed suicide, however an independent assessment found that this was not related to the use of the contraceptive drug.
Would You Use It?
The scientists behind the study have expressed confidence that the male contraceptive drug can be developed and that it inevitably will become common use. They are currently planning a new medical trial where the drug is taken in the form of a gel, rubbed into the chest every morning.
In light of the recent publicity surrounding this study, the NHS has, of course, strongly encouraged the public to stick to the tried and tested methods of contraception (condoms, the pill etc) for the time being. It might not be around just yet, but male contraception is a possibility for the future and it may change the landscape of men’s and women’s health.
Would you like to know more about methods of contraception for both men and women? We’ve got a helpful article on where you need to go for contraception advice.