The male pill is coming soon! (sort of)
The future is here, and it’s in the shape of a tiny pill men can take to alleviate some of the contraceptive burden from us women.
Yes, scientists are creating a new male contraceptive pill which stops sperm from being able to swim. Which seems like less fun for sperm, but really great for women. Why? Firstly, men are fertile every day, and women are fertile just six days a month so, erm, why are we the ones doing all the baby-blocking work? Secondly, hormone based contraception has been the basis of some worrying research recently.
Not only did experts find conclusive evidence to link hormone-based contraception with higher instances of anxiety and depression in women, but many of these medications increase the chances of blood clots. Sure, the risk is still extremely low, but it’s still there.
It would also be good to be able to share the contraceptive side of things, considering the other side involves women pushing another human out of their bodies. Think about the plethora of options for contraception women get to choose from, whereas for men it's either condoms or a vasectomy. According to research, if a male pill went on the market, over 50% of men would want to take it - so the demand is there, but why are we still waiting, in 2016?!
Why? Well, some scientists argue that it's much easier to stop one egg once a month in a woman, than 400 million sperm in a healthy man's ejaculate. Others argue that the research is inherently sexist, considering the scientific world has been dominated by men for most of the 20th century, it's not surprising they preferred not to work on something that affected them rather than women.
Apparently, the last major trial of a male contraceptive pill was over a decade ago, and was halted due to "higher than expected rate of depression, mood changes and increased sexual desire in the study volunteers.".
According to Professor Ilpo Huhtaniemi, Emeritus Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology at Imperial College London:
"This was a serious blow. The whole field [of male hormonal contraception] has been at a complete standstill for the last ten years."
Some would argue that the contraceptive pill causes these symptoms in many women, causing them to have to play pill roulette in an attempt to find the best female name that fits their cycle (Celeste? Yasmin? Er, Microgynon?). So why is this a reason to halt research?
Thankfully, according to the Mail on Sunday, a male-oriented alternative to the pill is closer than ever before, after researchers at Wolverhampton University and Portuguese scientists created a nasal spray which is taken just minutes before sex, and can be effective for days afterwards.
It works because the contraceptive is a 'cell-penetrating peptide compound', which buries itself into sperm an stops them from doing the front crawl up your uterus - making them unable to fertilise eggs.
Professor John Howl, who leads the project, said: "The results are startling – and almost instant. When you take healthy sperm and add our compound, within a few minutes the sperm basically cannot move."
There is a bit of a wait, though, and it won't be readily available until 2021 after loads more testing. Which is exasperating when you think how many more doses of Yasmin that means, but you don’t want your partner to be spraying stuff up his nose if it hasn’t been adequately tested.
There are also a lot of questions. Mainly: will a nasal spray be as effective as a pill? What if he misses his nostril? What if he sneezes immediately afterwards? Does it still work?
All these questions and more will be answered between now and 2021. May the countdown commence.
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