The most popular birth control option is still the contraceptive pill. With around 55% of those using contraception choosing the pill, it is way out in front of condoms at 36%. Next is the coil, coming in even further behind at 11%. Yet contraception is still primarily a woman’s thing. It is women who take the pill, have a coil fitted or use a diaphragm. Men only put condoms on – and most only do so very reluctantly. Somehow, birth control is still almost exclusively simply a woman’s business. Yet now there are also ways for men to be involved in contraception, too.
Contraception for men
As we’ve already mentioned, 36% use condoms to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Condoms are actually the oldest form of contraception and are still very popular today. They are convenient, easy to get hold of and safe. Nevertheless, many people don’t enjoy sex as much with a condom as they do without one. Yet not only can condoms protect against the possibility of becoming pregnant, but they also provide protection from sexually transmitted diseases. What’s more, they allow men to take some responsibility for contraception, too. However, many find it difficult to find condoms that fit correctly and complain that sex with a condom simply isn’t the same as sex without one. It really isn’t that difficult to find the right condom size, though. In any case, condoms are a good way for men to do their bit towards birth control – and when it comes to one-night stands, you should always reach for a condom to give you protection from sexually transmitted diseases.
Once a couple has finished planning a family and no longer wants to worry about potential pregnancies, many people opt for a vasectomy, or male sterilisation. This involves cutting through the man’s spermatic ducts, the vas deferens. Women can also opt for sterilisation, but since the surgery is considerably more complex in women than it is in men, couples usually prefer to go for a vasectomy. It is done as an outpatient procedure and is very low-risk. It usually only takes around 40 minutes, and men can go home again very soon afterwards. It usually costs a total of €400 to €500. Some people will wince at this figure, but if you think of the regular costs for other birth control options, they will add up to the same amount relatively quickly after a few years, too.
The decision to have a vasectomy should not be taken lightly, however. Although it is possible to reverse the procedure, a vasectomy reversal is not guaranteed to be successful. At a pinch, there is still the option of having the sperm frozen to allow a couple to have a child together even after a vasectomy, using artificial insemination.
However, even though the spermatic ducts are severed, a small risk of pregnancy still remains. Sometimes, sperm cells still manage to find their way into the seminal fluid regardless. This is particularly a risk in the first few months following the procedure. The Pearl Index here is 0.1.
The contraceptive injection, the male pill and Vasalgel – still a long way off?
Until now, these have been the only two ways for men to do their bit towards contraception. Yet research is being carried out into other birth control options. In 2009 and 2011, tests were conducted using a contraceptive injection for men. It was said to offer contraceptive protection based on sex hormones and was to be administered every eight weeks. Unfortunately, only 90% of the men tested tolerated the injection well. 10% experienced side effects, so the research was shelved.
Another possibility currently being researched is so-called Vasalgel. This is a polymer hydrogel that is injected into the vas deferens to block them. This obstructs the passage of the sperm. In addition, any sperm that are able to smuggle themselves through despite the gel are rendered harmless. The effects should last for ten years but can also be reversed before then. This is also done using a little injection. Vasalgel is currently still undergoing testing, however.
There has also been talk of a contraceptive pill for men. This contains the active ingredient DMAU. It is designed to inhibit production of the male hormone testosterone and thus suppress sperm production. Yet this method of contraception is still undergoing tests and is not yet available for contraception.
Unfortunately, since it is women who ovulate and who carry the child in the event of a pregnancy, it will probably always be more likely to be the woman who has to grapple with the issue of birth control. And there are certainly far fewer options for men compared with the birth control options for women that we looked at in our previous blog post. If you’re in a relationship, it’s important to agree on what form of contraception is the best option. Birth control certainly shouldn’t just be a woman’s business.