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Male Contraceptives: The Pros and Cons



Globally, access to a range of effective contraceptive options is crucial in preventing unintended or unwanted pregnancies. Unfortunately, there is an imbalance in the availability of contraceptive options for men and women. As proposals regarding the use of contraceptives circulate in legislative bodies across the United States, individuals and couples are actively seeking non-hormonal alternatives to help provide more novel contraceptive choices for men.


Contraception is an essential aspect of family planning, and for parents, the prospect of a surprise baby can be challenging financially and emotionally. As a doctor who often speaks with patients about their concerns and options, I wholeheartedly understand the significance of having a range of choices that can help individuals and couples feel comfortable and confident.


The options that are available to men have considerable benefits and drawbacks. Currently, no universally approved and available option has been thoroughly evaluated, researched, and authorized for global use as a one-size-fits-all solution.


The benefits and drawbacks of male contraceptives

Non-hormonal contraceptives for men can offer several advantages for individuals and parents searching for alternatives. Condoms are the most widely known, utilized, and accessible form of a non-hormonal option for birth control. The often touted 98% effectiveness of condoms is based on the perfect situations in which the individuals engaged in sexual activity ideally use them correctly and consistently — every time. According to Planned Parenthood, condoms are only 87% effective, increasing the potential for unwanted pregnancies.


The vasectomy procedure is another option that is reversible and readily available to men searching for a more permanent form of a hormone-free contraceptive. However, it's important to note that reversal may not be an option for all men, and other non-hormonal male contraceptives that are not yet widely available are still in the research phase.


Researchers have recently published promising results of an on-demand male contraceptive tested on mice, effectively illustrating the difficulties in developing new contraceptives for men. Encouragingly, the approach used in this study suggests that a viable solution is much closer than previously thought. The protein identified in the aforementioned study, known as sAC, affects sperm motility, which refers to the cells’ movement as well as maturation. The game-changing result was the discovery that a safe sAC inhibitor can temporarily make male mice infertile with just a single dose.


Despite the potential benefits of male contraceptives, there are also some drawbacks, including concerns about the risk of side effects. As with any medication, there is always the possibility of adverse reactions, and male contraceptives are no exception. In some studies, men reported experiencing “mood changes, decreased libido, and changes in weight and muscle mass.”


Another potential downside to male contraceptives is that they may not protect against sexually transmitted infections or STIs. While condoms can be an effective barrier method that can reduce the risk of contracting STIs, no single male contraceptive presently available offers this level of protection.


Overall, it is vital to consider the cost and accessibility of male contraceptives. While condoms are relatively inexpensive and widely available, other forms of male contraception, such as vasectomy, or hormonal contraceptives, may be more costly and harder to obtain. The development of male contraceptives is an important step forward in promoting gender equality and empowering individuals to take control of their reproductive health. However, it is important to consider these options' impact on women. Some argue that male contraceptives could potentially reduce the burden of contraception on women.


Furthermore, some women may feel uneasy about relying on their male partners to take the lead in contraception, given the potential for human error or neglect. There is also the issue of men refusing to take responsibility for contraception, even if more options are available.


Additionally, some women may feel that the availability of male contraceptives could reduce funding for research into female contraceptives.


It is important to note that the regulation of male contraceptives should also be considered. While there are still some challenges to overcome — including the need for more research and the development of new, effective, and safe options — male contraceptives have the potential to revolutionize the entire contraceptive landscape.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. James J. Elist is a highly regarded urologist who has been in private practice in Beverly Hills, California, since 1982. He specializes in impotency, male sexual dysfunction, and enlargement procedures. In 2004, Dr. Elist spearheaded Penuma, the first FDA-cleared penile implant for aesthetic augmentation, and he now offers the Penuma procedure at his Beverly Hills clinic. Penuma is also offered by a network of world-renowned surgeons across the US. Dr. Elist has received numerous accolades for his work, including being designated "The Best Plastic Surgeon - Urologist" in Los Angeles by Los Angeles Magazine in July 1998. He has also been elected as an Honorary Co-Chairman of the Physician Advisory Board of the United States Congress and recognized with the National Leadership Award.

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