Heidy Lee / Gavel Media

The Growing Importance of Male Birth Control

“Ugh, my birth control is making me breakout.”

“Shoot, I missed my alarm to take my pill, hope this doesn’t mess with my cycle.”

“Wait, how much is Plan B?”

Sound familiar? 

If you’re not a woman on birth control or at least friends with someone who is, you might be unfamiliar with the ailments that come along with practicing safe sex. Hormonal birth control, most commonly referred to as “the pill,” has been FDA approved since the 1960s, and is currently used by 65% of the American female population. Despite its popularity, the pill still has a wide array of side effects, deterring many from staying on it or even using it in the first place. Side effects include weight gain, mood swings, nausea, decreased libido, blood clotting, and elevated blood pressure. For over 60 years, society has encouraged women to take preventative measures against unwanted pregnancy (other forms of birth control including IUDs, birth control shots, and cervical rings), but recently the prospect of having birth control for men has arisen.

Studies conducted on mice have shown a 99% efficiency in stopping the production of sperm while taking a form of non-hormonal birth control. While research hasn’t progressed to the point of testing on humans yet, there is still hope on the horizon for the development of a non-hormonal pill. In the meantime, scientists are developing a hormonal topical gel, called NES/T, which men would have to apply on their upper arms and shoulders once a day. Similar to traditional birth control for women, daily use would be imperative for effectiveness. This is an option that could be formulated within the next five years. There has been advocacy for a non hormonal form of birth control, as hormonal options have been linked with concerning side effects in the past. In the 1990s, the World Health Organization (WHO) researched testosterone as a viable hormone to decrease sperm production. And while effective, the method led to side effects including acne, mood swings, and pain post injection (quite similar to the side effects of the pill for women). Studies were halted after the documentation of deterring side effects. 

Given the similarities of side effects hormonal birth control has on both sexes, how are we to decide which gender will bear the brunt of preventing unwanted pregnancy? Until male birth control is readily available, we may never know how willing men will be to use this method. For now, practicing safe sex is limited to the use of condoms and various methods of female birth control, though this is becoming increasingly challenged, especially following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The draft document, leaked in May, outlined Justice Alito and a majority of the court’s opinion, ultimately stating that “Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision…” When Roe v. Wade was overturned on June 24th, abortion rights were essentially left in the hands of state governments. Following the overturning, many states took steps to outlaw abortion altogether.

There are currently 12 states with a full abortion ban in effect, as well as two states–Ohio and Georgia–with six-week bans in effect. According to the New York Times, there are 10 additional states where abortion remains legal for the time being, but it is not guaranteed. 

With abortion outlawed in so many different parts of the country, it is becoming even more imperative that birth control options be improved for women and to also be extended to men, aside from the use of condoms. With a lack of sufficient sex-ed on a nationwide level comes the risk of unwanted pregnancy, something that now threatens the livelihoods of millions of American women. As we see science move forward with developing forms of contraception to include men, there is a glimmer of hope for protecting women from unwanted pregnancies.

As we enter an uncertain time for women’s reproductive health and safe sex, the best bet we have, in addition to practicing our rights to speak out as constituents of our respective states, is to implore science to make leaps forward in developing male birth control options.

If you identify as male, check out the poll listed on our site and let us know if you would be willing to use male birth control if it becomes available.

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