You don’t have to be female to take birth control shots! Males can, now, get the injections to prevent their female partners from getting pregnant, says a study published in Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Women normally have a wider range of choices for birth control methods, and it might even be considered a burden, sometimes, as they are the ones often expected to avoid pregnancy. Men, on the other hand, can take to only either condoms, withdrawal, or more drastic measures like vasectomy— there is, clearly, a need for more ways for them to control the possibility of pregnancy. The new research, therefore, comes as good news for both men and women.
A team of researchers came together to concoct an injectable hormonal contraceptive for males. They are still working on improving the product with the aim of reducing side effects.
“The study found it is possible to have a hormonal contraceptive for men that reduces the risk of unplanned pregnancies in the partners of men who use it,” says one of the study’s authors, Mario Philip Reyes Festin from the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. “Our findings confirmed the efficacy of this contraceptive method previously seen in small studies.”
A sample of 320 healthy men participated in the study; they were all in monogamous relationships with females, and were initially instructed to adhere to other non-hormonal birth control methods. They received the injectable contraceptives in doses of 200 milligrams of progestogen norethisterone enanthate (NET-EN) and 1,000 milligrams of testosterone undecanoate (TU) to inhibit their sperm count. The testing lasted for 26 weeks; two injections were given every 8 weeks to each participant. Their semen samples were tested after 8 and 12 weeks in the this phase called the suppression stage, and every 2 weeks after that.
After the sperm count of each reached beneath 1 million/ml in two consecutive tests, the couple would then be instructed to use only the injections as birth control, and the men were given injections every 8 weeks for up to 56 weeks— this was the efficacy phase. Tests were done again to ensure low sperm counts. Then, when the injections were no more given, the researchers monitored the recovery rate of the sperms.
The findings show that the hormones were effective in decreasing sperm count to 1 million/ml or less within 24 weeks— this was the case for 274 participants. The method was also effective in almost 96% of those who continued to use it. Furthermore, only 4 of the male’s partners got pregnant during the efficacy stage.
However, all of this came with side effects which included mood disorders like depression, and injection site pain, muscle pain, increased libido, and acne. Therefore, more work is necessary in order to come up with improvements.
“More research is needed to advance this concept to the point that it can be made widely available to men as a method of contraception,” says Festin. “Although the injections were effective in reducing the rate of pregnancy, the combination of hormones needs to be studied more to consider a good balance between efficacy and safety.”