In Search of the Male Pill. Or Patch. Or Gel ...

November 13, 2006

During last week’s election excitement I overlooked this somewhat oddly titled story: “Contraception as an Option for the Man.” Michael Mason writes that recent surveys show that men are becoming more willing to consider male contraception.

According to data published this year by the National Center for Health Statistics, American men reported that only 65 percent of the children they had fathered over a five-year period were anticipated. Twenty-five percent were “mistimed,” and 9 percent were described as unwanted.

An international survey that included 1,500 American men found last year that nearly half of them would be willing to use some new form of male contraception. (They split on whether they would prefer a daily pill or a longer-term implant.) Only 12 percent said they would never consider it.

“It used to be that men were content to let women take care of birth control,” said Elaine Lissner, director of the nonprofit Male Contraception Information Project in San Francisco. “But men today, especially younger men, want more control over this.”

Too bad there’s nothing on the market right now, though some promising studies are underway.

“For a long time, researchers have been saying a contraceptive for men will just take another 5 to 10 years,” Dr. John Amory, an internist at the University of Washington, told the Times. “But now I’m saying it with a twinkle in my eye.”

Some studies, for instance, have indicated that hormone therapy can be an effective contraceptive strategy for men.

One study underway by researchers at University of Washington and UCLA involves skin gels that contain natural testosterone and a new form of progestin. The gel reduces sperm levels; the levels returned to normal after men in the study stopped applying the gel.

For more information about male contraception, visit MaleContraceptives.org.

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