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Whatever Happened to the Male Birth Control Pill?

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Reproductive System related image Photo: Getty Images

A few years ago, I remember hearing the news that men may have the option of taking a birth control pill just like women. Wouldn’t that be something?

But time has passed--in fact, years--and no birth control of this type has appeared. What happened? I found an article on USAToday.com entitled, “Birth Control Pill for Men Still a Ways Off” that addressed this same issue. Is it that this product is unmarketable? No. Not according to Diane Blithe at least. She’s the project director of the male contraceptive development project at the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Instead, researchers pinpoint the delay to the actual production of the pill itself. Women’s biological composition makes it easier to mark specific times in their lives where they are not fertile. In men, however, it is more difficult because their reproductive systems are way more active than ours. In explanation, Dr. John Amory was quoted as saying that men make 1,000 sperm a second while women usually make one egg a month.

This male birth control pill (mainly testosterone) would halt or slow down sperm production. Somehow this chemical will prevent the message to produce additional sperm from getting to the testes, Amory also revealed. But when testosterone is taken in an extreme amount sterility will result, as in the case of athletes. The administering of testosterone in an uncontrolled way strips testosterone from the blood, turns off the libido, creates difficulty in making an erection and creates an inability to gain muscle.

When taken in pill form, testosterone “gets metabolized pretty aggressively by the liver,” stated Amory. Therefore, this form does not work well because it is dissolved too quickly in the body, even before it can get a chance to work. Still, Chinese researchers have found success with injectable testosterone – reporting no serious side effects. Amory is presently trying to research a gel form of birth control that would be applied to the skin.

So, as far as a pill being on the market soon, doctors tend to not be optimistic about an exact release date – only that research is ongoing and promising.

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