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.

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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.

Hormonal Birth Control Now Available Directly At Pharmacies in California

Like our neighboring state to the north, pharmacists in California can now prescribe and dispense birth control directly to women.  Now this warrants a happy dance!  Women now have another choice in how they get their birth control.  They can either go see their primary care provider, Ob/Gyn, family planning clinic, or go straight to the pharmacy.  At the pharmacy, women will have their choice of birth control pills, patch, ring, or injection.  All thanks to a state law passed back in 2013.  So why the delay?  It took 2 and 1/2 years to develop and approve the protocol because of the multiple rounds of revisions.

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Is this safe?  What about the pap smear?  A pelvic examination and a pap smear are not necessary to initiate hormonal birth control.  They are important for other health reasons.  Women will need to complete a health history questionnaire and have their blood pressure taken at the pharmacy.  This helps the pharmacist figure out which methods of birth control are safe.  If the pharmacist finds something concerning in your health history or if you want a long-acting birth control device like the implant or IUDs, then you’ll be referred to a provider who can help with that.  Ultimately, the goal is to improve access to medications where there is a public health benefit.  After the visit, the pharmacist will send a note to your primary care physician to fill them in — unless you don’t want the pharmacist to do that of course.

Interested in getting your birth control directly from your pharmacist?  Give them a call first to find out if they are providing this service.  Just because pharmacists CAN provide this service doesn’t mean they WILL.  California pharmacists want to participate but they are worried about time constraints at the pharmacy that prevent them from taking the time to do this.  Over time, more and more pharmacists will provide this service.  When you call the pharmacy, ask when would be a good time to come in for this service.  Pharmacies have “rush hours” and the pharmacist will be able to give you more time if you  come in when it’s slower.  Some pharmacies may even make appointments for this service.  In California, women of any age can access this service from a participating pharmacist.  No age minimums and no ID checks.  This service is completely confidential and no information can be shared with your parents or anyone else!

What’s this going to cost me?  If you go to the pharmacist for your birth control visit and fill your prescription, the prescription costs will be covered by your insurance the same as if it was written by a different provider.  Unfortunately, insurance companies aren’t paying pharmacists for the visit like they pay physicians and the long list of others who can provide birth control, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, and even nurses.  So you may have to pay out of pocket for the visit and submit the receipt to your insurance company and hope they reimburse you (if you try this, please let us know if this works or not!).

Is this a good idea?  This is an enormous step forward in increasing access to birth control.  Hopefully women will appreciate having more choices in where to get birth control.  Next steps?  Ideally more states will pass similar laws expanding access with pharmacist prescribing — Tennessee is already moving forward with legislation and many other states are considering it.  There is also growing support for over-the-counter birth control pills.  

Want to consult with Dr. Sally Rafie, PharmD, BCPS about your birth control and get a prescription?  Fill out the contact form and let her know how to reach you.

What California Teens Need to Know About Pharmacy Access to Birth Control

ProviderGuess what California! Having safe sex is about to get a whole lot easier for you in the next few months! We think that increasing access to highly effective forms of birth control is the best way to help prevent unplanned pregnancies and the lawmakers in California agree! A law was passed that is getting ready to rock how you get your birth control in a big way. Starting towards the end of 2015, your local pharmacist can start providing you with more effective forms of birth control in the pharmacy (the pill, the patch, the ring, and the shot)!

This means that you would be able to get your birth control without worrying about making a doctor’s appointment or clinic visit. (Side note: Getting checked out by a doctor regularly is really important! ESPECIALLY, if you are sexually active. It just shouldn’t prevent you from getting effective birth control!) Now if you need birth control you are going to have choices – the doctor’s office, your local family planning clinic, or your local pharmacy!

Who can get birth control at the pharmacy?

First of all, all you ladies out there can use it! Women of all ages — including teens — will be able to use this service. You also don’t need to have insurance or an ID card to get birth control. In California, minors can consent to medical care for the prevention or treatment of pregnancy without parental permission. In fact, legally the pharmacist cannot disclose any information to your parents without your written permission. Of course we know that your parents had sex at least once (hey, you’re here right?) so they probably know a thing or two about sex and birth control. So if you feel comfortable you can always chat with them about any questions you might have and they are welcome to come along to the pharmacy. We know teens like their privacy too; so just know if you don’t want to tell them, we won’t either!

How does pharmacy access to birth control work?

So here’s how it works. It is kind of like when you go get a flu shot from the pharmacist (if you don’t do that you totally should!). You fill out a health screening questionnaire and get your blood pressure taken to make sure that it is safe for the pharmacist to give you birth control and that’s it! The pharmacist will review your questionnaire and talk you about which methods of birth control would be safe for you to use. Then you can discuss how each method works and pick which you like best. The pharmacist will then provide you with birth control supplies just like you would get with a doctor’s prescription and you are good to go.

Keep in mind that not all pharmacies will be providing this service right away. It’s always a good idea to give the pharmacy a quick call to find out if they do before you go in.

How much will this cost me?

There will probably be a small service fee for the screening. This is different than the cost of the medication. If you do have insurance, you will most likely be able to get your prescription filled with no copay. (Thanks Obama!) If you are under your parents insurance, the insurance company might send your parents documents about what you got from the pharmacy. If this is something that you want to keep private, consider filling out a “confidential communication request” for your insurance company. See www.myhealthmyinfo.org for more information and a copy of the form.

What if I don’t live in California?

Basically, this new law is very exciting in the word of birth control. Hopefully once the other states see how much it has helped in California they will follow suit! So if you don’t live in California keep your eyes out changes to come!

What are some trusted sources for more info about birth control methods?

If this gets you excited about birth control, check out these helpful links to help you learn about different methods! These are really cool resources for teens and they break down all the pros and cons of each method. Bedsider includes videos from guys and girls talking about the experiences they’ve had with each method. On their website you can also sign up for text reminders for clinic appointments or to remind you to take your birth control pills, patch, ring, or shot. Planned Parenthood has an interactive quiz to let you know which methods might work best for you. They’ve even got info just for teens.

How can I get my questions answered?

Check out our new resource page just for teens!  If you have any other questions about your sexual health or anything pharmacy related you can submit your question anonymously. Your question will be answered by Dr. Sally Rafie, PharmD, who is a pharmacist and is very passionate about sexual health and how pharmacists can help!


Courtney HeadshotAbout the Author: Courtney Miller just finished her first year of pharmacy school at the University of California San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences. She is from the central valley which has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in California so this topic is very close to her heart!

Women’s Life Plans Have Changed

The average American woman’s life plan has changed drastically over the last few decades.  It’s no longer start having sex, get married, and have a kid…all within 4 years.  It’s now start having sex…continue having sex for about 9 years…then get married and have a kid in the year after that.

This means young women will need effective birth control for many years until their plans change.

Are you surprised by these changes?

contraceptive-use


Reference:  Infographic from Guttmacher Institute’s Media Center.  Based on data from: Finer LB and Philbin JM, Trends in ages at key reproductive transitions in the United States, 1951–2010, Women’s Health Issues 2014, 23:e1–e9.

What are Women Using?

Ever wonder which methods of birth control are most popular?  This infographic shows you which methods are being used by US women.

Methods Used

Note: Most popular is NOT the same as most effective!


Reference: Jones J, Mosher W, Daniels K. Current contraceptive use in the United States 2006-2010, and changes in patterns of use since 1995. National health statistics reports; no 60. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2012.

 

Other Uses for The Pill

While millions of women use birth control for just that, more than 1.5 million women (that’s 14% of pill users) are using it solely for another heath reason.

Many women using the pills for birth control also rely on the pills for other purposes, mainly menstrual cramps/pain, menstrual regulation, and acne.  Some pill users are either not currently sexually active or have never had sex.

So you can see there are lots of health benefits to birth control pills!

Other Benefits of Birth Control Pills

 


References:

  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Noncontraceptive Uses of Hormonal Contraceptives. Practice Bulletin No. 110. Obstet Gynecol 2010.
  2. Jones RK. Beyond Birth Control: The Overlooked Benefits of Oral Contraceptive Pills. New York: Guttmacher Institute, 2011.

Why I Started Choose Control

Image from JakeandLindsay Sherbert via Flickr

Those of you who know me have probably heard me talk about sexual and reproductive health, particularly family planning.  You may be asking, “what exactly is family planning?”  Great question!  Family planning is planning if and/or when to start a family by having children.  You accomplish this by using birth control when you don’t want to have a child, for example.  People who have the opposite goal — to have a child — accomplish this by using preconception care and infertility treatments (however, this is not the focus of Choose Control).

My focus is to help women and men who do not want to start or expand their families right now with their family planning needs.  Seems simple.  But as a nation, we are doing a really bad job of family planning despite a lot of valiant efforts.  Ready to have your mind blown?  Over half of all pregnancies…51% to be exact…are unintended (i.e., mistimed or unwanted).  That’s about 3 million of the 6 million pregnancies in the United States each year.  I hope your mind has been blown by this one statistic (if not, I’ve got lots more where that came from or check out this fact sheet).

Now you’re beginning to understand my passion for this issue.

As a pharmacist specializing in family planning, I know some things worth sharing. Pharmacists have expertise on medications and my expertise is on birth control (i.e., contraception in medical lingo).  I’d like to keep you, my friends and followers, in the know with relevant information and news on research, public policy, and products.  I will make this interactive and fun too.

In closing, I hope you will find Choose Control’s content useful.  I look forward to your comments, suggestions, and questions!

Sincerely,
Sally