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)

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.