There's an abundance of hormonal birth-control options for women, such as the pill, the NuvaRing, the Mirena, and the depo shot, so we're excited to learn that a male birth-control gel has been developed by the Population Council, a nonprofit dedicated to reproductive health, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health. It's being tested by University of Utah Health scientists and is now in phase two of clinical trials.
According to the UC Davis health research team, the hormonal male-contraception gel contains segesterone acetate, a synthetic progestin, which "blocks natural testosterone production in the testes and reduces sperm production." The gel also contains replacement testosterone to help "maintain normal sex drive and other functions dependent on the hormone." The gel is applied to the shoulders daily, and its effects are reversible.
In the two-year study, couples testing out this new male birth-control gel apply it to the man's shoulders once a day. It takes four to six months to start working, so they're supposed to use other forms of contraception during that time. After the man's sperm count falls low enough to not cause pregnancy, the couples use the gel as their only form of birth control for one full year. The scientists are testing not only the gel's efficacy, but how diligent the men are about applying the gel every day (we know how easy it is to forget to take the pill.). After the year is up, each male participant will stop using the gel and will be monitored until their sperm count returns to the normal range, which usually takes four months.
If you're interested in taking part in the testing process, you can participate in the University of Utah's research study; men receive up to $2,600 for their participation, and women receive up to $840. The study takes two years and is still in the testing process, so we won't be seeing male birth-control gel anytime soon. Still, it's pretty exciting to think there could be a reliable form of male birth control besides condoms (which can break) and vasectomies (which are intended to be permanent).