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Birth Control Pills for Men?

November 8th, 2007 • Contributed by Below The Waist
Posted in: Birth Control

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Originally posted on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan Online explores the possibility of birth control pills for men and how that my impact reproductive responsibility in our society.

Men are the new women – well, sort of. The role men play in society is changing just as much as that of their female counterparts. In the social aspect, women are joining the workforce, and men are becoming more prominent in the home (thus, the creation of the “stay-at-home dad”).

In science, men have become more visible too. With DNA testing for paternity, finding the father of a baby is a swab away in most cases. Amid national debates about abortion and women’s fertility choices, we tend to forget the other half of the situation: men.

In 1960, women inadvertently became the focus of contraceptive studies with the invention of The Pill, the first hormonal contraceptive to make it to the market. Although many tout this and subsequent methods of female birth control – the shot, the patch, the ring, the implant, the morning-after pill – as “freedom” for women, we should examine how free this “freedom” is and what we can do to level the playing field.

The pill, the patch and the ring cost anywhere from $20 to $50 per month. Plan B, the most widely available emergency contraceptive, costs about $40 at most drug stores. A shot of Depo-Provera, which lasts for three months, costs between $40 and $70. More often than not, women must pay these prices on their own.

Soon, however, there might be another option. Right now the only birth control choices for men extend to condoms, vasectomies and abstinence. Several new types of male contraceptives, many very similar to their female predecessors, could be on the market within the next two to three years. Male birth control not only gives men the option of preventing unintended pregnancies, but also lets them share the cost and the responsibility of contraception.

Doctors worry whether men will be able to deal with the contraceptive’s side effects, which clinical trials thus far show to include headaches and dizziness – no different than the symptoms one gets after a night of drinking. Symptoms of the female pill tend to be much more severe, including depression and blood clots, which could lead to heart attacks.

Doctors around the world are working to put male hormonal contraceptives, such as male birth control shots and implants, through clinical trials. Yet, if these methods aren’t enough to sway men, a promising study in London should help them make the jump for male birth control. Drs. Nnaemeka Amobi and Christopher Smith of King’s College have spent the last 12 years developing what is commonly known as the “dry orgasm pill,” which does exactly what its name indicates. The pill would only need to be taken approximately two hours before sex to be effective, and it would prevent the male from producing semen – without altering his orgasm.

Before men everywhere run for the hills, they must consider the unique possibilities of the drug. The new pill could, in addition to preventing pregnancy, have the ability to prevent an HIV positive male from spreading the virus, the two doctors say. No female pill thus far has the ability to prevent HIV or any other sexually transmitted infection. The new non-hormonal birth control pill came into development after findings that high blood pressure and schizophrenia medications lowered, in some cases completely, males’ sperm count. After discontinuing use of the dry orgasm pill, fertility would return to normal about half a day later. Essentially, the pill does the same thing as a vasectomy, but in a temporary manner.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 49 percent of all pregnancies are “unintended,” and according to the American Social Health Association, by the age of 25, one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI. With male birth control’s possible ability to ease these problems, it’s time for women, and especially men, to change the way they look at contraceptives. And if women and men are to continue to share responsibilities in the workplace and at home, they must also share the responsibility of birth control.

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