For many young women, the 4-by-2 inch rectangular pack of pills sitting on the bathroom counter is a familiar sight. It’s a daily task that involves taking one pill after your phone goes off. These pills can be prescribed for a variety of reasons, but are most typically used to prevent unwanted pregnancies and regulate menstrual cycles.
A poll from fall of 2021 showed how over half of U.S. college students in heterosexual relationships use male condoms to prevent pregnancy, followed closely by birth control. Around 20% use withdrawal, or the “pull out” method, and is followed by intrauterine devices (IUD), among other methods.
One method was left out of this data: male-controlled forms of birth control like oral or gel products.
Currently, the only forms of male birth control available includes condoms, abstinence and vasectomy. However, as of late, a new form of male birth control is going through trial runs at Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS). This novel method involves applying a contraceptive gel to a man’s shoulders once a day to reduce sperm count. The gel is part testosterone and part nestorone, which blocks sperm production, according to ABC8News. Dr. David Archer, the lead on the study at EVMS, notes the initial trials are promising. Thus far, researchers have found that the gel has succeeded in preventing pregnancies and the subjects haven’t experienced any side effects.
Instead, the greatest issue the contraceptive gel is facing is ensuring that men actually use the gel. Archer states that study-wide, about 46% of participants have dropped out of the study because they got tired of the routine, according to ABC8News.
Kristen Antignano, the partner of a male participant in the study, discussed the benefits of this new method.
“I think if this was available to younger single guys, why wouldn’t they be interested — just like young women — wanting to take power in their own reproductive health?” Antignano said.
Women often bear sole responsibility when it comes to reproductive health and sexual relationships. Some men are armed with a variety of excuses to avoid using protection or may not use any protection at all, leading to an increase in disease transmission as well as an increase in unwanted pregnancies. For women who opt to use birth control pills, the responsibility falls on them solely to take the pills regularly, which plays a large role in the method’s effectiveness.
According to the study above, almost half of men dropped out of the study because they simply weren’t able to keep up with the routine of applying the gel, thus placing reproductive responsibility back on women.
How incredibly frustrating and disappointing that based on this particular trial, when an innovative birth control option for men is presented that involves no penetration or painful insertion and shows little to no side effects, the trial still falls short due to a lack of commitment. Hesitations and potential stigmas surrounding male birth control need to be reframed, as male birth control could potentially be an important, safe contraception method for both parties.
Women put their bodies through a lot in order to protect against unwanted pregnancies and to protect themselves and their partners’ reproductive health. IUDs involve the insertion of a device into the uterus, which may result in cramping or pain followed by dizziness and spotting in the coming months, according to Planned Parenthood. Birth control pills have a variety of potential side effects including nausea, headaches and migraines, spotting between periods and changes in the patient’s mood, according to Medical News Today. Being responsible doesn’t always mean being comfortable, something that men in sexual relationships need to understand.
Although male birth control options are limited and new forms are still being developed before being released to the public, male responsibility within a sexual relationship needs to be advocated for far more aggressively, with less pressure and shame being put on women. Once these male birth control options are available, there should be just as much pressure on men to utilize these options as there currently is for women. The relationship involves two people, therefore both parties should be responsible and contribute to one another’s reproductive health.