With the booming rise in population leaving the nations bursting at the seams, controlling the birth rate is the only way to preserve our depleting resources. Conventionally, birth control has always focused on females but it is high time to look for contraceptive measures for males as well. Studies have shown that a large margin of the male population accepts the use of contraception and intent to make use of them, if available.
Need for male contraception
The use of birth control by females weighs heavily on their mental, physical and emotional health. Also, these methods are by no means easy on their wallets. The accessibility to proper preventive measures is low in most countries as it is interconnected to a lot of social, religious, and cultural sentiments.
Contraceptives, especially the hormonal variety, take a heavy toll on women’s health, even resulting in heart attacks and strokes in some cases. All these factors discourage them from using birth control. This makes male birth control methods essential.
Preventive measures for men
Throughout history, humans have been innovative and inventive about birth control techniques. A good contraceptive is easy to use, has little to no side effects, does not affect libido, and should be cheap and easily available.
Condoms have been around since the 20th century. It forms a physical barrier between the egg and the sperm thus preventing fertilization. They are, by far, the most popular contraceptive choice among men. It has the dual function of preventing transmission of STIs and HIV as well. They are easily accessible and can be purchased over the counter.
Condoms can work up to 98% of the time to prevent conception. Condom breakage and slippage during intercourse leads to accidental pregnancies. Incorrect usage of condoms also leads to conception. Many users report inconveniences like latex allergies and a decrease in sexual pleasure while using condoms.
How to use a condom correctly:
- Position the condom at the tip of the erect penis.
- Pinch out the air trapped in the tip, leaving some space for ejaculation.
Unroll the condom till the base.
- After coitus, remember to grab the base of the penis and hold the condom in place while pulling out.
- The used condom should be disposed of.
Withdrawal is commonly known as the ‘pulling out’ method. It is scientifically called coitus interruptus and is the process of withdrawing the penis before ejaculation. It has no side effects and costs nothing. The efficacy of this method is alarmingly low. It does not prevent the transmission of STDs either.
‘Outercourse’ and abstinence
Outercourse is used to describe the process of engaging in foreplay and sexual activities except for penetrative sex. It is successful in preventing pregnancy but the risk of STI remains. Abstaining from any sexual activity is the oldest and simplest birth control technique but it has its obvious downsides.
It is a simple surgical procedure that makes an incision in the vas deferens and seals the delivery of sperms from the testicles. It is the most commonly used method after condoms and can be reversed in most cases.
Vasectomy or surgical sterilization is highly potent in preventing pregnancies. The procedure has very low risks and may have side effects like swelling, bleeding, and bruising immediately after the surgery. However, it does not guard against STIs.
Birth control shots
Even though it is being developed, RISUG or Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance is a very promising male birth control solution. It is a non-hormonal technique that involves injecting a polymer gel into the vas deferens that prevents the release of sperms. It is minimally invasive, reversible, unlike vasectomy, and effective up to 10 years. Although it is still undergoing animal and safety trials.
Birth control gel
Nestorone-Testosterone (NES/T) is a potentially effective male contraceptive gel that has been under research for a while. This gel suppresses the hormone that aids sperm production and reduces the release of testosterone. This lowers the sperm count and prevents pregnancy.
It is advised to apply the gel on the shoulder daily. This contraception is still not available commercially.
Birth control pills
Various options for male hormonal birth control being researched across the world.
Clean-sheets pill is a fast-acting prophylactic that allows orgasm without ejaculation. It has the added quality of preventing STI and HIV transmission since semen is not released. It has to be taken 2-3 hours before sex and the effects last up to 16-24 hours.
Gendarussa is a non-hormonal pill that is being offered via clinical trials in Indonesia. It is a herbal birth control alternative that weakens the sperm’s ability to penetrate with an egg. If used properly, it is 99% effective but its accessibility still remains a question.
Most of the contraceptive methods other than condoms and vasectomy are still under scrutiny about their effectiveness. It takes about three months for methods like vasectomy and RISUG to show results.
Given that using a condom is the best choice available so far, there are a few things to remember while using it.
The latex condom is the safest option out there. Non-latex condoms are made out of polyurethane, polyisoprene, and lambskin; while the others offer the same level of protection as the latex condoms, the natural animal products are less effective against STDs.
Store the condoms in a cool, dry place.
Do not carry them in pockets and wallets. The heat and friction may damage them.
- Mind the expiration date on the packet before using it.
- Make use of lubricants that are silicone or water-based.
- Dispose of the used condom responsibly.
Even though condoms do not bring about any major side effects, experimental contraception may result in hormonal imbalance, mood swings, and unstable emotions in certain cases. If not done right, even sterilization may not stop the release of sperms.
It may also result in infections. In some cases, these contraceptive measures may cause unintended permanent infertility.
The choices in male birth control are much less varied than that of females because it is more difficult to devise reversible contraception for men. Women produce an ovum per month while a male body produces over 1000 sperms per second.
The target is much larger in the case of men, making the creation of effective and efficient contraception harder.
Contraception is the only way to curb the growing population and it is not meant for women alone. Among the options available to men in the case of contraception, birth control pills rank at the top. Their dual purpose of preventing pregnancies and spreading of STIs make them the most popular and widely used birth control option.