The Male Pill


It's been reported today that the "Male Pill," which is actually a gel, is in clinical trials: "Ed is one of more than 100 men trialling a drug called Nesterone/Testosterone, tipped to become the first male hormonal contraceptive on the market. It works by using a progestin — a synthetic hormone also used in female contraceptives — together with a synthetic testosterone to switch off a man’s natural testosterone production, thereby preventing sperm being made in the testes. The synthetic testosterone also ensures the man’s libido and overall physical health is maintained. The result: no sperm in his semen but, researchers say, few other discernible effects."

After recounting that his sex life is unchanged, we get more details: "There is one difference: Ed has to shower religiously before sex because if the gel were to rub off on Fiona’s skin she could absorb too much testosterone and her own hormone balance would be affected. As for side-effects, Ed adds: ‘I do occasionally get hot flushes and night sweats. And I’ve gained 3-4 kg [around 7 lb].’ The hot flushes are attributed to his hormonal balance being slightly disrupted, just as women experience in midlife. Ed says: ‘I don’t mind having the odd hot flush if that’s the price for an absolutely easy, carefree sex life.’ As for any emotional fragility, Ed has taken to his ‘mood changes’ like a duck to water. ‘Anything hormonal is going to affect different individuals differently,’ he says. ‘But something like the gel should still be an option for men.’"

Interestingly, the reason Ed was open to the trial is that his partner Fiona almost died from a contraceptive coil. It caused an abcess leading to surgery, from which she developed sepsis. The Female Pill caused Fiona to be depressed and tearful, which is why she was using the coil.

Various commentaries embedded in the article discussed whether young men could be trusted to apply the gel every morning and also to wash it off before having sex. Others wondered if men would be put off by "shooting blanks," or be worried about the reversibility of the effects. Still others felt men would simply not put up with the hot flushes, weight gain, and mood changes--even though these are what women experience on the Female Pill. No one discussed if there might be any effects of giving a man a synthetic progestin and a synthetic testosterone, even though the hormonal system of a human being controls far more than simply reproduction. And excellent treatise on this subject from the female angle is the book, This is Your Brain on Birth Control, which I would urge anyone going on hormonal contraception to read.

While I am sure the Male Pill-Gel will be a boon for some, I cannot help but wonder if hormonal contraception is really the best way to go for either men or women. In the modern day of "there's an app for that," fertility awareness has been made easier than ever. Here's a link to one such app. Are there better ways of postponing pregnancy besides jacking ourselves up on artificial hormones or inserting metal objects into our uterus?