New Birth Control Soon to be Available

By Monique Frausto

For more than 40 years, only women had the option of a safe and
effective oral contraceptive. Now a birth control pill for men may
soon become a reality.

Considered to be safe and reversible, the Population Center for
Research in Reproduction at the University of Washington in Seattle
claims that a male hormonal contraceptive may soon be available,
according to the Men’s Sexual Health Guide on MSNBC.com.

The researchers in Seattle also claim that men may soon have the
choice of a daily pill, a patch or gel to be applied to the skin,
an injection every three months, or an implant placed under the
skin every 12 months-all which are similar to the female
contraceptive options.

According to Dr. Andrea Coviello, who is part of the Seattle
research team, they have created this male contraceptive that
releases testosterone over three months. They maintain it is a
potentially safe and a practical method of contraception.

Carla Jackson, health educator for Student Health Services,
recognizes the issue of safety and possible side effects.

“In order to get people to take a medication the benefits have
to outweigh the drawbacks,” said Jackson.

Jackson comments on how researchers have figured out a way to
suppress sperm production but is concerned on how doing something
like that could possibly have side effects that would prohibit
people from taking it.

Danielle Duran, a third-year animal science student, thought a
male birth control pill was definitely interesting, but also
questioned the consequences.

“There will probably be concerns regarding the safety of it and
the long term effects,” said Duran.

Quentin Brown, who participated in a male hormone contraceptive
study at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, claims to have taken
contraceptives for more than a year, according to the MSNBC
article.

Brown admits to headaches and night sweats but didn’t have any
issues with weight gain or acne, which were side effects that
occurred in earlier research.

The article also notes that male hormonal contraceptives work in
almost the same manner that female contraceptives do-the hormone,
such as testosterone and progestins, are used to turn off sperm
production. The female contraceptives use estrogen and
progestins.

If and when this male hormone contraceptive is released, one
main concern is if men will actually take a birth control pill.

Jackson is worried that young men wouldn’t take the pill.

“Men will never get pregnant,” said Jackson. “So he may never be
motivated to take the pill as she is.”

She notes that women often bear the burden of pregnancy and
there may be an issue of trust when it comes to men taking their
pill on time or getting the scheduled injections.

“I think it would alleviate a lot of stress from us,” said
Karina Rocha, a liberal studies student.

Research for the male birth control pill has been in development
since the 1990s. MSNBC.com states that it may be available on the
market within five to seven years, with implants, which are similar
to Norplant, to arrive even sooner.

Jackson realizes this research has taken a long time. She blames
funding for the delay because male fertility is so much harder to
control than women.

Women have one egg produced a month while men have
half-a-billion sperm produced every month making it harder to
control, according to Jackson.

“Although they have money right now for funding, who knows if it
will last through out the clinical trials,” she said.

The products, which are being tested, have California
researchers and investigators in China collaborating, according to
the article. China is testing more than 1,000 men at 10 different
sites. There are hopes that a similar trial could begin here in the
United States within two years.

China does have a “one-child” policy in effect to control
population, which Jackson believes is the motivation behind the
research in this field.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said William Fredericks, a
third-year biology student. “That way both sides of the
relationship can take charge.”

The issue of insurance coverage and costs were two factors that
Fredericks would consider before using a contraceptive of this
nature.

Duran thinks that an added incentive of using this form of birth
control could lead to more unprotected sex.

Jackson, on the other hand, doesn’t believe that the use of male
birth control pills could lead to unprotected sex or a rise in
sexually transmitted diseases. She thinks the public is aware of
condoms and it’s protection against STD’s.

“It sounds like a damn good idea,” said Patrick Cavanaugh, a
first-year landscape architecture student.

Cavanaugh questioned if a vasectomy would be safer than possible
side effects involved, but would consider it as an option.
Vasectomies are an alternative, but are sometimes irreversible.

“I think if they got the side effects down enough, some men
would take it,” said Jackson. “I don’t think it’s going to be young
men. I think it’s going to be men who are in committed
relationships and are a little bit older.”

The use of a male birth control pill would definitely offer a
larger range of possibilities according to Jackson, and for women
the roles might finally be reversed.

Monique Fausto can be reached by e-mail at news@thepolypost.com
or by phone at (909) 869-3747.

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