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Male Birth Control Is on Its Way: But Will It Work?

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Condom or pull-n-pray? For years, women have had to handle most of the birth control. (Except that last method. Don't do that.) If a man wanted to make sure he wasn't going to be a daddy, he used a condom; no weird hormones or procedures necessary. But according to a recent piece in the Daily Beastmen may soon have another, non-invasive, condom-free option for corralling their colts. Parsemus, the foundation behind a new form of birth control called Vasalgel, claims that by 2017 men will be able to get an injection that will make them swimmer-less until they decide to get it removed—think temporary vasectomy. However, experts are warning not to break out the condom-shaped confetti just yet. 

"People have been saying we'll soon have male birth control since I was a resident in med school 30 years ago, and it didn't happen then, and I doubt it will happen now," says Phillip Werthman, M.D., a urologist specializing in male fertility at the Director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine, in Los Angeles. "Vasalgel sounds simple, but the reality of it is very difficult; I don't see this as being the next big thing." 

How does Vasalgel work? By injecting a small amount of a non-hormonal gel into the vas deferens, the ducts responsible for carrying the sperm, Vasalgel hopes to block any sperm coming down the pipe. When a man is ready to have children, the gel is reportedly simply flushed out.

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Unfortunately, there's no "simple" about it, Werthman says. He explains that the vas deferens are the size of a spaghetti noodle and that the channel inside them, where the gel needs to go, is smaller than 1/3mm in diameter. "It would be extraordinarily difficult to find that channel blindly with a tiny needle and insert the gel without doing a surgical procedure," he says, adding at that point it would actually be more invasive than a vasectomy. A whole new injection technique would have to be developed before this would see widespread use.

There'd also be no way to tell immediately if it worked, so men would have to wait weeks, maybe months, to see if the gel "takes," Werthman says. Then there are the unintended consequences: According to research from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University's School of Health, most men would ditch rubbers if they thought there was no pregnancy risk—despite the STD risk. 

"There is definitely a market for a simple and reversible form of male birth control, but we're still a long way off from that, Werthman says, adding that Vasagel has so far only been tested in baboons and hasn't been approved yet for human trials. Testing in humans is a whole different animal (literally and figuratively). Your best bet for now is to hold onto your pill pack and condoms. 

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