Could male birth control be coming to pharmacies soon? The latest iteration of male birth control is reportedly showing promise in early trials.
This latest pill, called dimethandrolone undecanoate or DMUA, is not unlike the female birth control pill. It, too, contains a combination of hormones, combining the activity of an androgen (a male hormone, like testosterone) and a progestin. When taken as directed, it can theoretically lower a man’s sperm count enough to ensure that he cannot impregnate his partner.
Admittedly, the study for this pill was quite small, and has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Scientists studied just 83 men, each of whom were given varying doses of either DMUA or a placebo pill. A “marked suppression” of hormonal levels required for sperm production were noted in the men who took the highest dose of 400 milligrams.
But we’ve been here before.
Male birth control has been the topic of scientific research for years now. Over the years, there have been many instances in which both scientists and the media have trumpeted the news that male birth control was just around the corner. In each instance, women everywhere — who have long shouldered the bulk of the contraceptive burden — rejoiced. And then … nothing.
The last incarnation of a possible male birth control pill, in 2016, required its user to take two doses a day, and was also shown to damage the liver. Heck. Liver damage aside, taking the pill just once a day is hard for many women to remember. Is it any wonder we haven’t yet seen that pill — or any of the others we’ve heard about — make it past those initial trials in order to eventually be approved by the FDA for wider use?
Like many female birth control options, the new pill, DMUA, can cause weight gain, in addition to a slight increase in cholesterol. Some participants also reported lower libido. And another downside? The pills need to be taken with food in order for them to work.
Other researchers not involved with the study have expressed additional concerns, saying that the drop in testosterone caused by this pill is akin to “chemical castration,” which can cause breast enlargement, blood clots, depression and decreased bone density. Stephanie Page, the endocrinologist leading the study, told CNN that as a means of preventing the common side effects of testosterone deficiency, the DMUA pill contains other hormones that mimic other effects of testosterone.
But then there’s the question of whether or not men will be willing to take birth control. As mentioned above, men do not bear the burden of pregnancy, and so there has been some debate as to whether or not men will be invested in remembering to take the pill.
According to Page, however, research has shown that across “various races, ethnicities and across socioeconomic groups [men] are actually very interested in contraception. And 60 to 80 percent of men surveyed in such studies say if there was a reversible contraceptive available, they would be very interested in using it.”
What do you think? Are more equitable contraceptive options on the near horizon? Or do we still have a long way to go?