Wouldn’t it be absolutely wonderful if the burden of using the majority of contraceptive options didn’t fall almost totally upon women? Thanks to an innovative birth control method involving a gel that is applied directly onto men’s skin, reliable male contraceptives may not be a pipe dream any longer.
Researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center have developed a groundbreaking contraceptive gel that combines testosterone with a new synthetic progestin called Nestorone . When applied on the skin, the gel reduces the sperm production of the user dramatically — 89% of men who used the product experienced a reduced sperm count.
Here’s how it works: testosterone can inhibit the production of reproductive hormones and when it is combined with progestin, that effect is multiplied, effectively preventing the body from producing sperm. Additionally, the drug benefits from using a synthetic progestin — Neostrone results in no wacky hormonal activity, preventing users from facing the pubescent horrors of zits all over again. The gel also doesn’t impact cholesterol, another concern that arises with the use of progestins.
So how long until men can start their day off moisturizing with a contraceptive lotion? Not quite yet. The gel is far from being as effective as the birth control pill: during testing, 88-89% of men using a gel combining both hormones obtained a sperm concentration less than 1 million sperm per milliliter. 78% of men experienced a complete absence of sperm production. However, unacceptably high rates (that is, unacceptably if you don’t want to get someone pregnant) of sperm production persist for 10% of men using the gel — when compared with the 0.3% pregnancy rate of birth control pill users (assuming perfect use), it doesn’t seem as though contraceptive gels will be supplanting the pill any time soon.
However, this is pretty huge news and one has to wonder whether or not this gel will come to market or just fall to the wayside. Last year we wrote about an innovative contraceptive that involved a penile injection, one that, despite it’s effectiveness, received little to no press. Was this due to the invasive nature of the birth control method (despite the fact that many women resort to often-painful IUDs and invasive surgery to prevent pregnancy)? Or is it due to cultural notions of who is responsible for pregnancy or lack thereof, a role often placed square upon the shoulders of women only? Time will tell whether or not this gel will make it to the market, but, looking at its burgeoning effectiveness and ease of use, it would be quite a shame if it remained in scientific obscurity.
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