Watch: male contraception hasn't changed much since the condom was invented over 5,000 years ago. You can blame biology.
- The condom was invented more than 5,000 years ago. While it's made some strides since then, men are still left with few options for birth control, besides a vasectomy.
- It's not due to a lack of interest, but a lack of funding for research - and biology.
- Men produce millions of sperm each day. Even if that count is reduced by 90%, they could still be fertile.
- There are new methods coming, but experts say it will be years, if not decades, before they hit the market.
- For more, go to Business Insider SA.
Some of the first forms of birth control date back to around 3,000 BC, and while the condom has made some strides since the Bronze Age, men still don't have a much better option all these millennia later.
Besides a vasectomy and especially compared to the pills, IUDs, and implants available to women today.
So why don't we have birth control for men? In 2002, researchers asked more than 9,000 men across four continents whether they'd be willing to use contraception capable of preventing sperm production. Over half said yes.
The problem isn't lack of interest, it's partly human biology. Women ovulate just one or two eggs each month. Men, on the other hand, produce sperm daily, and it's not just one or two.
There’re literally hundreds of millions of sperm produced each day, so because there's so many sperm produced you can reduce your sperm number over 90% and still be completely fertile.
To reach infertility, a man's sperm count needs to be somewhere around 1 to 10 million per milliliter, but getting there is near impossible, at least without side effects.
That's because sperm count is tied to the production of testosterone. In the past, researchers tried decreasing testosterone to decrease sperm count.
The problem is you don't have any libido, you have very little testosterone to act on other tissues and so forth, and so the side effects were so dramatic that it really wasn't ever going to be a contraceptive pill.
Scientists also tried using different compounds that attack the cells that produce sperm. But again, biology got in the way. Germ cells, as they're called, developed inside a fortress-like structure within the testes.
But there are in fact some promising lines of research.
Doctor Christina Wang, LA Biomed Researcher, is working on a gel that can lower testosterone where it matters, in the testes where sperm is produced, while keeping testosterone levels normal elsewhere. That means low sperm count and, more importantly, no major side effects.
But perhaps most promising is a sort of reversible vasectomy that's in the works.
Doctors could inject a gel into what's called the vas deferens. It makes plug, so then essentially it does the same thing as a vasectomy, but you're not cutting it. Then believe it or not, you can inject this chemical mixture, which will dissolve the plug, and so then you can get your fertility back.
But, without more funding, some of these promising lines of research, may never hit the market.
So at least for now, men are left with few options. Irreversible vasectomies, pulling out, and that slightly updated Bronze Age invention.
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