A new form of male contraception, designed to disrupt the production of sperm, is heading into trial early this year in hopes of going to market in the near future.
Unlike the invasive vasectomy, or mood-killing condom, the new contraception is a rub on gel containing a testosterone halting chemical called progestin. The gel is designed to enter the bloodstream, lowering testosterone enough to stop the production of sperm in the testes, whilst simultaneously release a synthetic testosterone replacement to counter any hormonal imbalances.
Surprisingly, the gel is not administered to the genitals. Participants in the trial, set to commence this coming April, will apply the gel to their shoulders.
With limited forms of male contraception available on the market, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the US hopes that a successful trial will mean an easy option for couples not looking to expand their families.
“It’s not a lot of effort,” says Diana Blithe, the Director of Contraception and Development. “It’s just remembering to use it every day.” However, with a 72 hour sperm-suppressing expectancy, there is a safeguard for the more forgetful.
Blithe’s study will involve over 400 couples worldwide for a four month period, and the expectations are high. After 10 years in development, the topical gel is predicted to be more effective that injections and pills thanks to the chemical’s bloodstream delivery. A recent study in 2008 found that while injections of a similar nature were effective in contraception, participants experienced severe mood swings (not too surprising after having to inject themselves every day).
Providing men with more options for contraception is becoming increasingly favourable for pharmaceutical companies and researchers. Some women are unable to use hormonal birth control, and these advancements open up more options to couples when it comes to family planning.
Related: Why Men Have Stopped Using Condoms