For years, women have used birth control pills and other forms of contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy. And while men definitely help share the responsibility of using birth control, women typically shoulder the majority of the task, as there are simply more options available to them. However, that might be beginning to change as new, easy methods may allow men to get in the birth-control game, too.
A form of male birth control has been promised to be on the horizon for years now, says Elaine Lissner, director of the Male Contraception Information Project
, but it looks to finally be coming to fruition.
"For decades, we've been told there would be new male contraceptives on the market in 'five to 10 years' — which has turned out to be the same thing as 'never,'" Lissner says. "But now there are two methods that could be on the market within 3 years — and when you hear that, it means it could really happen. And men are demanding it."
The two methods that are closest to market are Vasalgel, an alternative to vasectomy that lasts 10 or more years, and Gandarusa, a plant-based pill being developed in Indonesia and in advanced clinical trials. Unlike birth control pills which interfere with hormones, Vasalgel works by filtering out the sperm in the tube they swim through, and Gandarusa interferes with the sperms' ability to penetrate the egg.
"They're both much more targeted than hormonal methods for women — and thus much less likely to have the long list of unpredictable side effects," Lissner says.
It's expected that Vasalgel should be on the market in 2015, with clinical trials in the U.S. starting next year. The plant-based Gandarusa pill could be on the market in Indonesia even sooner, possibly this year or next year. According to Lissner, men — and their partners — are clamoring for these new options. For example, more than 5,000 people are on the waiting list to hear about Vasalgel clinical trials.
The ease of a long-term options is what makes something like Vasalgel best, she says. Studies have shown that long-acting methods are far more effective in real-world use than daily pills.
"Whether you're a man or a woman, it's human nature to forget pills sometimes," Lissner says. "That's why we're particularly excited about long-acting methods like Vasalgel; the guy gets it done in a 15-minute procedure, and then you both get to forget about it. That's the best kind of birth control — the kind you don't have to think about!"
However, even if male birth control does get to market and becomes very popular, women should definitely still use protection, especially to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
"Of course, if you're ever in doubt, you don't need to rely on a man using birth control — you still have the option to protect yourself, too," she says. "People often say to us, 'I wouldn't trust a guy in a bar who said he had that!' If it's a guy in a bar, you should be using a condom. End of story."
Are you excited about the prospect of male birth control? Would you want your guy to use it? Share your thoughts!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.