The invention of birth control has helped people take control of their reproductive health, engage in family planning, and has ultimately given people autonomy over their sexuality. With this freedom also comes responsibility – a responsibility that has mostly fallen onto the shoulders of people with vulvas. What about male birth control options? Read on to learn more.
Current Forms of Birth Control
Currently, there are only two forms of male contraception that men have autonomy over: male condoms and vasectomies. Vasectomies are a surgical procedure that prevents sperm from leaving the testicles and making their way into semen. A penis-owner who has a vasectomy will still be able to ejaculate, but they will be sterile. Vasectomies can oftentimes be reversed, but they are known to be a permanent form of birth control which keeps many penis-owners from having one.
Women, on the other hand, have myriad options including hormonal birth control pills, IUDs, patches, rings, implants, tubal ligations, injections, and more. Women’s birth control options, while plentiful, often alter hormone levels in the body which can come with many undesired side effects. These side effects may include weight gain, nausea, headaches, blood clots, and irregular bleeding to name a few.
What is Male Birth Control?
Broadly, male birth control is any form of contraception that targets male physiology. Similar to contraceptive pills for women, a non-hormonal male birth control is currently being developed. Non-hormonal means it will not contain hormones and subsequently will not alter the hormone levels within the body.
According to Ed Cara at Gizmodo, it works by blocking proteins from binding to a select form of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is linked to fertility in mammals, so by blocking only certain forms of Vitamin A, the drug is able to render the user temporarily sterile with no known side effects – at least so far in male mice.
This means that the researchers found the drug to be 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancies yet once stopping the drug, the rodent’s sperm production returns to normal.
This research is a promising sign of male non-hormonal birth control, but there is no guarantee that the drug will react the same way for humans. Clinical human trials are expected to start in the near future and bring more answers.
Talking with Your Partner About Birth Control Options
Male birth control gives penis-owners the chance to be more confident in making decisions that foster safer sex. Even before male non-hormonal birth control is tested and approved for human use, you can still talk with your partner about the options that are available. For example, if you and your partner are trying to avoid pregnancies, you may talk with each other about vasectomies.
You do not need to wait until the drug is approved to talk to your partner about it. In fact, talking about your thoughts around this idea could be a way of initiating the conversation on birth control.
“I saw/heard _____ (online, in the news, etc…) that there’s a male birth control being developed. Have you heard of it?’
If male birth control becomes approved for human use, you and your partner might consider if this is right for you especially before ditching any current contraceptive methods you use. For example, if you and your partner use condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, you should continue to use condoms in addition to male birth control pills (should you choose to use both for extra protection).
Having the conversation about switching contraceptive methods:
- Ask if you and your partner can have a conversation about birth control.
- Discuss your current form(s) of contraception (if any) and if needed, explain why it is important that you use some form of birth control.
- If you are a vulva-owner, explain how your current form of birth control impacts you.
- Do you experience any adverse side effects that you don’t want to experience? Is your current option inconvenient?
- Explain to them what options they currently have and the testing that is currently going on for non-hormonal male birth control.
Research the different available male birth control options together so you both have a better understanding of what would work best for you and your relationship.
Choose the Right Method for You
The development of male non-hormonal birth control is a huge step in giving penis-owners more autonomy over contraceptive options and also for alleviating the burden that vulva-owners face in being largely responsible for contraceptive methods. Whether it’s to feel more confident during casual hookups, or if it’s to prevent pregnancy in long-term relationships, male non-hormonal birth control can benefit everyone.