According to one study, men can be trusted to take their pill equivalent.
One of the major hurdles in developing a daily male contraceptive was the excruciating fear that many women might forget to take.
However, a groundbreaking UK study found that the majority of male participants used a contraceptive gel for a full year.
After at least 12 months, the study found that approximately 90 percent of men successfully remembered rubbing the gel on their shoulder each day to suppress their testosterone so that they produced little or no sperm.
None of the partners of the men who signed up got pregnant, suggesting the contraceptive is working well – although the fully published results are still about two years away.
Scientists say that men can finally be trusted to take their pill equivalent. One of the major hurdles in developing a daily male contraceptive has been women’s fear that their partners will forget to take it. (File photo)
And men who peeled off the gel after completing the experiment saw their sperm count return to normal.
Professor Richard Anderson, who leads the study at the University of Edinburgh’s MRC Center for Reproductive Health, revealed the first results from 35 men enrolled as of July 2019.
After all, 450 men are to be enrolled, including from countries such as the USA, Italy, Chile, Sweden and Kenya.
Professor Anderson said: “This is the first UK study to test a do-it-yourself male contraceptive instead of injecting men or giving gel in the lab.
“You will always find people who think that men cannot be trusted to use contraceptives every day.
“However, these results show that men can be relied on, and this is important as many couples want the opportunity to have more choices about their contraception.
“It is not fair that the tedious task of taking a pill every day for many years and decades rests only with women, and that they themselves are exposed to mood swings, side effects, and switching between pills.”
However, some experts are still unsure whether men are reliable. Charles Kingsland, Consultant Gynecologist and Clinical Director at CARE Fertility, said, “If I were a woman, I wouldn’t necessarily trust a man to use birth control.
CARE Fertility Consultant Gynecologist Charles Kingsland said, “If I were a woman, I wouldn’t necessarily trust a man to do his contraception.” (File image)
“If he said he’d used his gel, I’d have my doubts.
‘This is a known problem when it comes to male contraception.
“One reason women consistently use contraception is that if they do get pregnant, they have to be the one to give birth.
“And there is an argument that men are less reliable because society expects women to be more responsible than men.
According to James Owers, remembering to use male contraception isn’t difficult.
He held his contraceptive gel dispenser next to the toothpaste and applied it as part of his morning routine.
The 31-year-old, who used contraception for 16 months as part of a UK trial led by the University of Edinburgh, said he would do it full-time without hesitation.
The only changes he noticed were increased sex drive, extra sweating, and mild acne on his back, as well as three pounds of weight gain that he quickly lost while still using the gel.
Since he stopped using the contraceptive, his 29-year-old partner Diana had to take the pill again and suffered from side effects.
Mr Owers, a data scientist based in Edinburgh, said: “People often talk about men not being responsible enough to use contraception, but using a gel is incredibly easy.
I went to the shower in the morning and then applied the gel to my shoulder, which took about 15 seconds.
“It took about as much effort as thinking about brushing my teeth.”
The couple had long talked about the injustice of men who had no long-term birth control options beyond a vasectomy or condoms.
After four years together, when the opportunity arose for him to use contraception, Mr. Owers said, “I had to put my money where my mouth was.
“I’ve always thought that it was unfair for women to bear the burden of not having an ‘accident’ and getting pregnant just because there are no other options.”
The data scientist used the gel from April 2019 to August 20 with monthly checkups to monitor his sperm and do blood tests.
His sperm count, which dropped to zero, returned to normal within six weeks of stopping the contraceptive.
He said, “If the side effects were too severe or damaged our relationship, I would have stopped using the gel.
“But the worst part was that you had to record what you didn’t have to do every day when male contraceptives were widespread.
“If that happens before we’re ready to have children, we’d probably take turns using contraceptives, so we’ll both share responsibility.”
“Not only that, but men have more testosterone too, which can encourage them to take more risks – even if they have an unwanted pregnancy.”
The UK arm of the male birth control study is being carried out in Edinburgh and at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Manchester.
Men between the ages of 18 and 50 were recruited who had a stable relationship with women of childbearing age between 18 and 34 years.
The couples have stopped all other forms of birth control and have relied solely on the gel.
The contraceptive contains a mixture of synthetic testosterone and progestin – a synthetic hormone used in the pill – to turn off men’s natural testosterone and prevent them from making sperm.
Most men have sperm counts that go to zero and stay that way during use, which could provide 100 percent protection against pregnancy – better than any existing form of birth control.
A gel works better than a male pill because testosterone in tablet form is broken down very quickly.
A 2011 study by Anglia Ruskin University that included 134 women found that more than half believed a man would forget to take a male pill.
Concerns about the reliability of men may be one reason why male contraception, first tried in the 1970s, took so long to complete and make it available on the main street.
However, the Edinburgh arm of the trial found that approximately nine out of ten men took the gel as directed every day.
This is based on reports from men and monthly research that clearly shows that her sperm count has remained consistently low and the hormones in her blood have been kept at the same level.
The researchers have advised men to find a routine and rub the gel at the same time each day so that it becomes a habit.
The side effects were relatively minor, and the acne problems seen in previous studies did not occur in men who used the gel, although some reported mood swings similar to those of the women on the pill who have struggled for years.
Another problem with male birth control is that compared to women, men have a lower tolerance for mood swings or gas.
But there have been a small number of male volunteers who have left the UK process and this is usually due to life changes or the end of relationships.
As efforts continue to be made to develop a male pill, Professor Anderson is confident that the male contraceptive tested could be successful enough to complete the journey to the chemist shelves that men can use routinely.
He said, “We are getting closer and closer, and men who take the gel as directed are one more step closer.
“This is not just an experiment, it is about getting a male contraceptive through development and it is time that contraception responsibilities were shared between men and women.”
Allan Pacey, male fertility expert, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said, “In my experience, most men willing to use male contraception would do very well.
“In my conversations with men I have not seen anything that would indicate otherwise.
“But I was particularly impressed by the views of much younger men in the ‘milennial’ age group, who generally take their social responsibility much more seriously in this regard.”