The Ins And Outs: Measuring the benefits of male contraception
Women know that dealing with birth control can be quite the hassle. A new condom each encounter. One pill every day. A new patch every week. A new ring every three weeks. One shot every three months. A new IUD every 12 or five years. But there will soon be another option for sexually active men and women to control the risk of unwanted pregnancy.
A reversible and 100 percent effective form of male birth control is currently under advanced clinical trials in India, and could be ready for the American public as soon as 2015.
Here’s how it works: A polymer gel known as Vasalgel, or Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance, is injected into the vas deferens, blocking the majority of sperm from getting through. As an added bonus, any sperm that gets anywhere near the gel is killed on its journey, according to a study done by Chaudhury, Bhattacharyya and Guha in 2004.
This differs drastically from all forms of female birth control that – at best – require frequent maintenance due to the menstrual cycle. In order to truly prevent insemination, nearly all forms of birth control for women focus on the use of hormones, which could do anything from altering a woman’s menstrual cycle to giving her vaginal dryness. For women with male partners, this new option sounds almost too good to be true.
“I would expect RISUG to have a very low failure rate, but I’d also be a little surprised if it was 100 percent effective,” said associate professor Chris Moffatt, who teaches human sexuality at SF State. “If a physician makes an error administering the injection to the vas deferens, then the effectiveness of the contraceptive is reduced.”
Within moments of the injection, the gel begins to solidify in the vas deferens and anchors in its walls so that the sperm can’t get through to fertilize the egg. Men are advised to wait at least three days before ejaculating for the gel to solidify, and it’s recommended that they use a condom for the first 10 days. After that, the results last 10 years.
Men in India have been using the injection for roughly 15 years and all successful injections have resulted in zero pregnancies over that time period, according to the Male Contraception Information Project, which bought the rights to begin studying RISUG in the United States to develop it for public consumption.
The injection won’t even do anything to alter orgasm for men, or the amount they ejaculate.
“It shouldn’t have any effect on orgasm and only a minimal effect on the amount of ejaculate produced because sperm make up only a small fraction of the total volume of the ejaculate,” Moffatt said.
Unfortunately, there is a major downside. It’s a needle straight into the scrotum. That’s right, guys: a giant needle into your ball sack.
But it’s only once every 10 years, and you’ll be taking birth control into your own hands. Think about it like this: Would you rather deal with your girlfriend or wife getting a steady dose of wild hormones potentially dozens of times within 10 years, or just one little injection that you won’t even feel?
Exactly. Go for the injection.