Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A possible birth control pill for men

Is he on the pill or isn’t he?

ABC News
June 8, 2011

Birth Control Pill for Men: Would You Count On It?

Scientists could be one step closer to developing a birth control pill for men. A drug that stunts sperm production aced tests in mouse testes. And if it's proven to be safe and effective in humans, it could expand the prophylactic pool -- an exciting prospect at a time when roughly half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended.

But with the burden of pregnancy falling largely to females, some women say they wouldn't count on it alone.

"I think it depends on both the woman and the man," said Amy McCarthy, a 23-year-old web editor from Dallas. For McCarthy and her boyfriend of two years, Dave, the pill for men would be a welcome addition to the contraceptive repertoire.

"Dave is just as worried about the possibility of pregnancy as I am," McCarthy said, explaining that they already "double up" on birth control methods. "If anything, this is a really empowering development for men. Up until this point, they only had a few options to prevent getting their partner pregnant."

Such options, including condoms and spermicides, can help prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm in their tracks. But researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City say the drug BMS-189453 can quickly and reversibly stop sperm production. Developed more than 10 years ago as a possible treatment for skin and inflammatory diseases, the drug's sperm-stunting potential was originally considered a toxic side effect.

"One company's toxin may be another person's contraceptive," said Debra Wolgemut, a professor of genetics as well as obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City and lead author of the study published June 4 in Endocrinology, in a statement.

Sperm production ramped up again when the mice stopped taking BMS-189453, and the drug did not appear to hamper their libido -- a troublesome side effect reported with other, hormone-targeting versions of the pill for men under development. But some doctors say the idea of quashing sperm production, even temporarily, can be scary for men.

"Sperm-making is a pretty delicate thing, and people do seem to have a concept of that," said Dr. Joseph Alukal, director of male reproductive health at New York University's Langone Medical Center. "How long did it take for women to get comfortable with the reversibility of the birth control pill? I'm not sure."

Nevertheless, Alukal said he thinks some men would welcome the option of a birth control pill.

"If you look at vasectomy, I there are plenty of men in committed relationships who choose to take onus of reproductive planning on themselves," Alukal said. "I think the same sorts of people would choose to look into something like this."

But for single guys, the pill might not fly.

"In modern society, there are all kinds of legitimate questions raised about the utility of a pill like this," Alukal said. Questions like, "Do you really expect guys to take, and their female partners to trust that they've taken it?"

McCarthy wouldn't.

"If I were dating around, though, there's no way I would trust someone that I'd been on just a few dates with [to take the pill]," she said. "I think for most men it just wouldn't be a thought that crossed their mind -- they're worried about getting HIV or gonorrhea, not having a screaming baby."

Personal Comment: We have seen buzz about a male pill before and so far it’s come to nothing. I would not trust ANY man to take a contraceptive pill to prevent me from becoming pregnant! I can see that for some men an effective and side effect free pill would be useful. If a man was afraid of being trapped into marriage by a woman who said she was on the pill but wasn’t in order to have him impregnate her that would be a great use of a male pill, but of course no method is 100% effective.

Then there is the procedure for determining if a guy who is taking the pill really is sterile. Men store sperm. So after a vasectomy a man has to ejaculate about 20 times to release all the stored sperm before his sperm count is low enough that he is basically shooting blanks. With a male contraceptive pill I imagine there will be an interval where he is still shooting live loads while his supply of stored sperm is depleted. How long that interval may be depends on how sexually active he is and will require trips to his doctor after several months to see if his sperm count is low enough. From a vasectomy site about confirming sterility:

“Since you are not sterile after your vasectomy, temporary male birth control is needed. At least 2 and sometimes more semen analyses are needed to confirm no moving sperm are present. Testing typically takes place at two months and then three months after your vasectomy procedure. If the 3 month test shows no sperm then the patient is cleared to return to have unprotected intercourse.”

So even when a male contraceptive pill becomes available and a guy starts taking it correctly unprotected sex with him will still be dangerous for two or three months.

I wouldn’t trust any man on a contraceptive pill unless it was to prevent HIM from becoming preggers, and that seems unlikely to be possible any time soon, transgendered males excluded. Since I’m the one who would have to deal with the consequences of an unintended pregnancy I want to ensure I’ve done everything possible to avoid testing positive for hCG, or that I have intentionally taken a greater risk myself.

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I'm a classically trained dancer and SAB grad. A Dance Captain and go-to girl overseeing high-roller entertainment for a major casino/resort