Dudes on the pill

The coming of male birth control

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If modern medicine continues to work on contraceptives, there may be some bad news for day time TV junkies, who will soon have one less Maury Povich topic to discuss with their friends. It looks like we are getting ever closer to the newest form of birth control that in some cases could take the guess work out of paternity testing: the male birth control pill. To date, men have few forms of birth control that are limited to condoms, spermicides, vasectomies or "pulling out." Some perceive these methods as old fashioned, uncomfortable or scary. With the introduction of new options, men will have the pick of pills, gels, patches or implants, just like women.

Researchers have been studying and perfecting the idea of a male pill for over 40 years and they predict that we are still five to 10 years away from it hitting shelves. The pill contains the synthetic hormone desogestrel and they kick it up a notch and add the hormone testosterone. This combination not only blocks the production of sperm, it also makes sure that male characteristics and sex drive stays intact. Clinical testing at the University of Washington shows that the success rate of male hormonal contraceptives can be as high as 100 per cent, with subject's test results showing a sperm count of zero, but this is only if the treatments have any impact. These studies also reveal that 10-15 per cent of males do not respond to treatment, which is a high percentage when you compare it to the less than one per cent failure rate for female birth control.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation in the U.S. found that 71 per cent of American men would consider an alternative form of birth control and 66 per cent of those surveyed said they would try the male pill. The pill is completely reversible and once you stop taking it, sperm production returns to normal within 10-12 weeks. As well, the cost is about the same as female pills ranging from $15-20 a month.

"It is time for men to have some control," said one of the test subjects from the UCLA Medical Centre in California. "I think it would empower men and deter some women out there from their nefarious plans."

With a success rate of 100 per cent in those that respond to the drug, this also saves men from expensive DNA testing or the "snip snip" to prevent unexpected babies. Those in monogamous relationships with sensitivities to condoms or for those women who can't take the pill this is a great alternative, but just like female birth control, men must take the pill daily. A prominent fear from researchers is that the pill will replace the use of condoms in casual encounters as it does not protect against HIV/AIDS or other STIs.

Until there is a higher success rate and a greater demand, we may be waiting longer than once thought for this new and innovative product. As medicine continues to move the male pill project forward, we could soon be hearing more women ask if their guy took their pill yet today and some men's archaic birth control method of "pulling out" could soon be a preference as opposed to a precaution.