Birth Control Options for Men

Birth Control. The term is almost synonymous with women’s health. That’s probably because women have so many birth control options available to them. There’s the pill, the ring, and the IUD…. just to name a few.

But what’s out there for men? Unfortunately, unlike our counterparts, men don’t have nearly as many options. First off, there is no pill men can take. There has actually been research to develop one, though progress has been slow. For now, birth control options for men are limited to vasectomies, condoms, and spermicides. There are a couple of natural methods that are not as effective, but I’ll go ahead and give you the basics on all your options.

Vasectomy. This is by far the most effective method available to men. It’s nearly 100% effective! During a vasectomy, two tubes located in a man’s testicles are cut and sealed to prevent the flow of sperm. A vasectomy is a great option for men who want a permanent form of birth control and who have no plans for having biological children in the future. Vasectomies have been performed for just over 50 years. Here in the United States, about half a million men get vasectomies each year, many in their late 30s or 40s.

This Guy’s Guide to Sterilization answers your questions in under two minutes: 

Male Condom. Condoms have been used for centuries and are still the most popular type of birth control for men out there. Not only are male condoms readily available at your local drugstore, they are also fairly easy to use. Male condoms are considered somewhat effective at preventing pregnancy since 18% of women relying on this method will have an unintended pregnancy in the first year of use. While male condoms are only somewhat effective as contraceptives, those made of latex are very effective at preventing transmission of diseases and infections.

Spermicide. These are chemicals that kill sperm or stop them from moving. They come as creams, foams, jellies, suppositories, tablets, and films at your local drugstore. Spermicides are not very effective on their own as birth control, so they are commonly used with other methods, such as condoms. Relying on spermicides alone, 28% of women will have an unintended pregnancy in the first year. 

Now on the natural methods…

Withdrawal.  Also known as “pulling out.”  This method refers to a man pulling his penis out before ejaculating. The method is only successful if a man has good control of his body and is able to predict when he reaches the point of ejaculation and pulls out in time. But even so, the withdrawal method has a pretty high failure rate (22% of women will have an unintended pregnancy) and it also doesn’t protect against sexual transmitted diseases.

This Guy’s Guide to Withdrawal video tells you more: 

OUTER-course.  There is no single definition to describe outercourse. It could refer to sexual activity without vaginal intercourse or activity that does not involve any type of penetration (anal, oral, or vaginal). Outercourse is very effective as a birth control method and it also protects against sexually transmitted diseases.

And of course, there’s always the option to abstain or not have sex.

Although men don’t have as large a selection of birth control methods, there are effective options to choose from among those that do exist. If you have any additional questions related to birth control, you can contact us (anonymously if you prefer) or refer to your health care provider.


About the Author: Kevin Vu is a third-year pharmacy student at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Reference: Trussell J. Contraceptive failure in the United States. Contraception 2011;83:397-404.

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