Birth control pill for men on the horizon


Men may soon have the same birth control options – and responsibilities – as women have had… Men may soon have the same birth control options – and responsibilities – as women have had since the 1960s.

Hormone-based birth control pills, injections, gels and creams for men could be on the market in as soon as five years. They will work in much the same way that hormone-based birth control for women works, and, like the female pills, will be reversible. Hormones will cause sperm production to cease while the contraceptives are being taken.

While a commendable scientific advance, the availability of a male pill raises many questions.

Will women trust men who claim to be “on the pill?” It has traditionally been incumbent upon women to be concerned with birth control, because unwanted pregnancies are ultimately a woman’s problem, at least biologically. She can’t skip town on her own uterus. So it seems likely that men who say they are on the pill will face more skepticism and distrust than women who do.

Will men be willing to take the pill? Recent research has shown that hormone replacement therapy’s risks outweigh its benefits. Clearly, hormones are more dangerous than previously thought. Many women experience unpleasant side effects from hormonal birth control, ranging from weight gain to decreased libido to depression. Will men willingly risk side effects?

It may be wise for famous or rich men to take the pill as soon as they can, to avoid potential paternity suits from gold-digging women. It may put a dent in Jerry Springer’s guest pool, but would probably be an improvement over the nastiness such suits tend to result in.

Will male birth control replace vasectomies for men who don’t want to have any more children? Vasectomies, while fairly routine elective procedures, are still invasive surgery, and are generally not reversible. For a man who isn’t completely sure he’s done reproducing, hormonal birth control may be ideal.

Health management organizations can be notoriously stingy about covering elective medicine. Few women have their hormonal birth control covered. Yet, for some women, hormonal birth control is prescribed for medical conditions such as acne or irregular menstrual periods. For men, the only reason to take hormones is family planning. Will HMO’s deem that worthy of coverage?

It remains to be seen how well male hormonal birth control will work, or if it will catch on. But for men in committed relationships who don’t want children, at least not for a while, this could be the innovation they’ve been hoping for.