Male Birth Control With a Flip of A Switch

The future of contraception may allow men to control their fertility with just a flip of an on-off switch! This switch, called the Bimek SLV, was developed by German researchers. This might just be the most innovative uses of technology when it comes to birth control for men.

How exactly does it work?

It’s a small device about the size of a gummy bear that attaches to each of the two spermatic ducts and functions to regulate the release of sperm cells. In its closed state, the device obstructs the release of sperm during ejaculation. It diverts only the flow of the sperm cells, not the ejaculatory fluid. So men can expect to ejaculate normally. Sperm actually makes up only about 5% of the ejaculatory fluid. The rest is made of other substances such as proteins, enzymes, and water.

bimek_slv_foto.jpg

Conversely, the valve can be easily switched open and allow the release of sperm, immediately restoring fertility. The sperm cells that are blocked are ejected out of the spermatic duct through several outlets on the device. Outside of the ducts, special cells known as phagocytes break down sperm. The Bimek SLV is proposed as a life-long, hormone-free method for men to control their fertility.

What would the experience of getting this entail?

First off, a medical examination would be required to make sure that he is a good candidate for the device. An incision is made on the testicles and the devices inserted. The procedure to implant the switch is similar to undergoing a vasectomy. Therefore, the risk of complications or adverse effects after insertion is very low. The procedure itself takes only 30 minutes and is done under local anesthesia. And although it only takes only 1 day to recover, it does take 3 to 6 months before the device becomes completely functional and is able to divert sperm from the ejaculatory fluid.

How much does it cost?

Estimated costs for the surgery and the two Bimek SLV valves is about €5000 Euros or about $5,400 US dollars. Pricey, indeed!

It may be years before this device even lands in the US marketplace because it still needs to undergo clinical trials to make sure it’s safe and effective. If everything runs according to schedule, the device is projected to receive European market approval in 2018.

For more information, see the Bimek SLV website.  Or watch this video:


KevinVuPharmDCandidate

About the Author: Kevin Vu is a recent graduate from the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Will Men Be Receptive to a Natural Male Contraceptive?

Finding an effective method of birth control for men may be as simple as looking towards nature. A tropical plant that has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy may have a role in male contraception.

Choose Control - Birth Control Contraception for Men Gendarussa

What is it?

Gendarussa leaves have been brewed and drank as a remedy for stress.  People started noticing an unexpected side effect: reduced male fertility.

For the past few years, researchers from Indonesia have closely studied the gendarussa plant and its medicinal properties. The plant contains a natural chemical that disrupts the enzyme on sperm that is needed to perforate the wall of the egg.  So the chemical essentially prevents the sperm from being able to enter the egg…and thus prevents pregnancy. 

Does it work?

Researchers have been able to extract the chemical from the plant and put it in pills. These pills are now being tested in human subjects as a form of contraception. The results from the Indonesian studies are encouraging. Dr. Bambang Prajogo, a pharmacy professor at Airlangga University, leads research on the development of this potential new form of male birth control and has publicly stated that the pills are “99% effective” based on his trials.

What makes the gendarussa-based birth control pill even more promising is that the side effects seem minimal. It’s not a hormone either. In addition, the effect of the drug is reversible; men can regain fertility within several weeks after discontinuing the pill.

When will it be available?

The gendarussa birth control pill is expected to be on the market in Indonesia by 2016.  It will probably be an even longer wait before we can set our sights on this drug in the United States. Nevertheless, the gendarussa pill signifies one of several new birth control methods being developed that are geared towards providing men with more contraceptive options.  

What can men use now?

In the meantime, men should know about their current birth control options, including all the different types of condoms.

Would men be receptive to a male contraceptive?

There have been surveys showing a minority of men would use a hormonal birth control method if it were available.  I’m curious whether not only men, but also women, will be receptive to birth control for me.

Tell us in the comments below…

  • Would you be receptive to a natural male contraceptive?  
  • Does this sound more or less appealing than a hormonal method? 
  • Would you rely on this method or use with another method?      

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

(Photo credit: Solly Markovitch via Flickr NOT of a Gendarussa plant. Justicia gendarussa actually looks like this.)

New Methods of Birth Control Being Developed for Men

A lot of research is being invested in developing new methods of birth control for men. As you may recall from a previous post, birth control options for men are limited to vasectomies, condoms, spermicides, and natural methods like withdrawal right now.

Male Scientists

Here’s a preview of methods in the works:

Pills & Skin Gels

  • Pill. The pill targets muscles in the vas deferens (plumbing in the body that carry sperm from the testicles out through the penis head) to prevent ejaculation from happening. Don’t worry, this drug does not affect the sensation of an orgasm. The pill would be taken 2 to 3 hours before intercourse and could last up to 24 hours. This pill has an added benefit of preventing HIV transmission since the HIV virus is found in semen and there would be no ejaculation. That is why the pill is aptly named Clean Sheets Pill.

Where does the ejaculate go? It is reabsorbed by the body! So there’s no build up. Currently, researchers of this pill are campaigning for funds to allow them to continue studying this method before it can be submitted for FDA approval. You can read more, pitch in or sign a petition to support funding here.

  • Hormonal Gels. These gels combine two hormones — testosterone and progestin — to suppress sperm development. The advantage of this method is that it is easy to apply as it is just rubbed onto the skin once daily.

Injections & Implants

  • Gel Injections. Two different gels – known as RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance) and Vasalgel – are being developed in India and the United States.  Both of these gels are injected into the vas deferens (the same tubes that are cleaved during a vasectomy) and they work like a plug, blocking the passage of sperm. These non-hormonal forms of birth control require only a single treatment and in addition, would be reversible. The developers of Vasalgel just announced an update this month about success in animal models and now human trials are planned to begin next year, with the hope that the drug would be available for consumers by 2017. You can help by pitching in to the crowdfunding efforts of this social venture. You can follow the updates by liking the Vasalgel Facebook page.
  • Hormonal Injections. Clinical trials found men who were injected with the hormones norethisterone and testosterone every 8 weeks had no sperm in their ejaculate. Additional studies are now planned worldwide involving couples.
  • Implants. The implants contain testosterone and would be placed under the skin of your upper arm. The testosterone would help inhibit the development of sperm and reduce sperm count. Right now, studies are being developed to determine whether these implants work.

Don’t hold your breath on these products. All these potential methods have several more years of research and clinical trials to determine whether they are safe and effective methods.

What do you think about these methods? Men, would you use them? Women, what are your thoughts on your partners using one of these methods of birth control?


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

References:  Nieschlag E. Clinical trials in male hormonal contraception. Contraception 2010;82:457-70.  Meriggiola MC et al. Norethisterone enanthate plus testosterone undecanoate for male contraception. Contraception 2005;90:2005-14. (Photo credit: Craig Anderson via Flickr)

The Male Condom: A Man’s Wingman or Best Bro

Did you know there are FOUR types of male condoms?

Condom

Male condoms can be made of latex, polyurethane, polyisoprene, or sheepskin. Here’s what you need to know about each type:

  • Latex condoms are the most widely available and the most effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections.
  • Polyurethane condoms are thinner than latex condoms so they provide increased sensitivity. These condoms also protect against STDs and are a great option if you are allergic to latex condoms.
  • Polyisoprene condoms can be used if you have an allergy to latex or polyurethane. These condoms have a softer and more natural feel compared to polyurethane while providing the same protection against STDs.
  • Sheepskin condoms transmit body heat well and prevent pregnancy but not STDs.  The pores are small enough to prevent sperm from passing through, but not small enough to keep viruses and bacteria from passing through.

While male condoms are fairly effective* as contraceptives, male condoms (other than sheepskin) are very effective at preventing transmission of diseases and infections transmitted by genital fluids, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and HIV. Just remember that the condom only covers the shaft of the penis, so other infections that are primarily transmitted by skin-to-skin contact could still occur from areas not covered by a condom, such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), syphilis, and chancroid.

These are the most popular type of birth control currently out there. Not only are condoms readily available at your local drugstore, they are also fairly easy to use.

There is a fifth type of condom…the female condom! More to come on that product in an upcoming post.

Ask yourself! How many other names can you list for “condom”? Find out some of the condom slang in this Guy’s Guide to Condoms video:

* Male condoms are only considered fairly effective at preventing pregnancy since 18% of women relying on male condoms will have an unintended pregnancy in the first year of use.


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:  “Condom Fact Sheet In Brief.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013.  (Photo credit: meddygarnet via Flickr)

Talking to Your Partner about Your Plans

When it comes to choosing the right birth control, it’s a decision that shouldn’t be left to just one partner in a relationship. Although many men might view the subject of contraception as a foreign matter, it is important that they too are educated and engaged on the options available to them and their partner.

Having this conversation BEFORE you and your partner start having sex is ideal. Not only can this discussion strengthen your relationship by opening lines of communication that might have not previously existed but it also helps build a sense of trust, allowing you to be more intimate with your partner. By sharing the responsibility of planning for safe sex, you and your partner would be setting your minds at ease over the thought of having an unplanned pregnancy or possibly getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD).

Talking to Your Partner about Birth Control

So how do you even begin having this conversation with your partner? Here are some quick tips to help you get started.

Plan ahead.  Don’t wait to have this conversation at the last minute…in the heat of passion. Start the conversation outside the bedroom and choose a time that is good for both you and your partner. If you have trouble finding the perfect time to bring up the issue, maybe consider talking about a TV show, movie, or pop culture event as a conversation starter and then transition into the subject.

Stay calm. It’s natural to be a little nervous when discussing the subject with your partner, especially if it’s the first time you’re bringing it up. But remember the importance of this discussion. You might even feel better about your relationship, knowing that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your plans and birth control.

Educate yourself.  Before you start the conversation, read up on the birth control options that are out there and that may interest you. Or better yet, include your partner in this process. Ask them to accompany you to the doctor’s office, clinic or pharmacy so both of you can learn about birth control together and have your questions answered at the same time.

Rehearse.  Practice what you’re going to say in front of a mirror or with a close friend who can give you personal advice. Rehearsing beforehand allows you to go through the points you want to get across in preparation for the actual talk.

Be honest. Express your true feelings and be clear with your thoughts. If you are going to have this conversation, you might as well get all your worries or concerns off your chest. If you don’t feel comfortable expressing your opinions with your partner, that may be a sign that you’re not ready to become intimate physically either.

Listen.  After you had the chance to discuss your thoughts, allow your partner the opportunity to respond and express how they feel. Respect what they have to say and be open to their point of view.

Continue the conversation. Once you have discussed your plans and birth control with your partner once, that doesn’t mean it will be the last time. Be open to future discussions as your relationship evolves. Over time, you and your partner may desire different things out of your relationship so your method of birth control may also change.

For prompts that you could use to help you get the conversation started regarding birth control, pregnancies, or even STDs, check out the Get Talking interactive conversation starter.  The BeforePlay.org website has a lot of great information, memes, and videos about family planning and sexual health.


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

References: Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) website.UC Davis Student Health and Counseling Services website. (Photo credit: adulau via Flickr)

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.