The pill, for dudes: Birth control for men in the works


by Mia Gradney / KHOU 11 News

Posted on July 9, 2012 at 10:30 AM

HOUSTON—Male contraceptive pills could turn the tables on birth-control responsibility.

Traditionally a woman’s burden, the idea of a pill that men could pop to prevent pregnancy is promising. Such contraception is currently in development in labs worldwide. Researchers have found the pill is effective for some and not for others. There are side effects, including weight gain, acne, depression, and possible heart problems.

Potential side effects worry men like Vivek Koshy.

"I don’t want to eat any pills," said Koshy. "Anything that goes in the body I think it messes up your system. I would not use anything like that."

But for those who don’t like pills, there are other options for male contraception currently in development.

"The testosterone gels and progestin gels, those combinations are probably the ones that hold the promise as of now," said Dr. Zampip Patel, an andrology specialist.

"Every day you use a small amount, you put it on the abdomen and also on the arms," said Dr. Christina Wang, lead researcher at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.

In the lab, under the microscope, sperm manipulated by contraceptive gels appear in much smaller numbers. The effects of such gels are reversible—men can regain fertility in three to six months.

Gels and pills are both far less invasive than a vasectomy.

"I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it," said Matt Bennett. "I think it’s something guys would do if it was available."

It could take at least another five to 10 years before a male birth control pill reaches the market. Until then, men will have plenty of time to weigh their options.