A male birth control pill has shown significant results in lab trials in mice and is heading toward human trials, which could start next year. Although several male birth controls are already in trials, the research team says this new contraceptive has shown great promise with very few side effects. Here’s what you need to know.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have created a male contraceptive that has shown to be 99% effective at preventing pregnancy in mice, Gizmodo reports. The research team says the contraceptive they’ve developed is non-hormonal, meaning it has far more limited side effects than traditional hormonal birth control taken by people who can get pregnant.
The new pill works by targeting interactions with vitamin A — an essential component in fertility. “After a lengthy search, they found an experimental compound that blocks a protein responsible for binding to a form of vitamin A (retinoic acid) in our cells, known as retinoic acid receptor alpha (RAR-α),” Gizmodo explains.
The research team said that when they gave were the compound, called GPHR-529, their sperm counts declined and they became sterile. When the mice were taken off the medication, their sperm count returned to normal within four to six weeks.
There aren’t a whole lot of options for cisgender men who want to take a more significant role in birth control and protect themselves and their partner from unwanted pregnancy. Although people who can get pregnant have hormonal birth control through the pill, hormonal IUDs, nonhormonal IUDs, implants, tubal ligation, diaphragms, and products like Nuvaring, there are only two effective methods of birth control for cis men: condoms and vasectomies.
Access to a birth control measure that’s more effective than condoms but less invasive than a vasectomy would be a welcomed option for cis men who want to temporarily control their fertility — or cis men who are trying to add layered protection of birth control, as in both partners using some form of birth control, as no method is 100% effective.
For some men, having access to safe and reliable birth control that goes beyond condoms might feel especially important after the overturning of Roe v. Wade — and at a time when many are concerned birth control for people who can get pregnant may face a similar trajectory. Following the end of Roe v. Wade, some doctors across the country said the amount of people seeking a vasectomy spiked upwards of 200%.
The myth that men aren’t interested in birth control beyond what’s already available has stalled progress in new developments. And while that might have been true decades ago, it’s clear now that birth control and family planning should no longer fall solely on one person in the relationship.