What Lies In The Future of Male Contraceptives?

In a recent study by We-Vibe and YLabs on “the future of male contraception¹” that saw more than 3,500 people and seven sex experts from different countries interviewed. In addition, promising contraceptive methods, potential obstacles and realistic solutions for a future with equal contraceptive culture were analysed. The study shows very clearly: the majority of men want to share responsibility and the chances of this actually happening are strong, because the increased demand is boosting research.

Since the invention of the female contraceptive pill in the 1960s, couples who do not wish to have children can lead a fulfilled and self-determined sex life, though the responsibility for this lies almost wholly with the woman, partly because there are too few male contraceptive methods. Meanwhile, however, fewer and fewer women want to take on the side effects of the pill as well as the responsibility.

Men are willing to use contraception

In contrast, the We-Vibe study clearly shows that men are willing to use contraception. Worldwide, 78% of male study participants want to share responsibility for contraception with their partners and are positive about male contraceptives. This trend is being driven primarily by Millennials and those from Gen Z. They are increasingly questioning existing gender roles and responsibilities. For example, 83 percent of respondents attribute responsibility for contraception to all parties involved, regardless of their gender identity.

In the end, everyone benefits from different contraceptive methods. They can strengthen the relationship and trust and enable both partners to enjoy their intimate moments even more. Good sex is not a one-way street. When both partners feel comfortable, in the mood and, above all, safe, sex can become a much more pleasurable shared experience.”

– Johanna Rief, Head of Sexual Empowerment, We-Vibe

Fear of side effects

Figure 1: Responses to the question “What side effects would you be willing to tolerate in exchange for the benefits of contraception?”

Even though men are very interested in taking contraception themselves, 41 percent worldwide say they would not tolerate any side effects, especially if it could affect their libido. But women surveyed in the study also said they would find it difficult to give away responsibility – there is too much concern that their partner might not take the contraceptives regularly. What is needed, then, is a significant cultural change in which men demand and want to use contraception and women are willing to give away some of the responsibility².

Promising contraceptive methods in the near future

Currently, there are two male contraceptive methods with great potential that are being studied in more detail:

  • NES/T³ – a gel that can be applied to the skin and effectively reduces sperm count
  • RISUG4 – a non-hormonal injection into the vas deferent that stops the release of sperm

Both approaches have so far shown little or no side effects. This aspect in particular will be enormously important in the development of new preparations for men.

Investment from Pharma necessary

Safety remains one of the biggest challenges in contraceptive research in general. Because they are products administered to healthy people and are not used to treat disease, tolerance for side effects is particularly low among medical regulators such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). These stringent safety requirements also explain why no major pharmaceutical company has yet looked at potential male contraceptives5.Most of the funding comes from government and nonprofit organizations (e.g., Male Contraceptive Initiative)6. Research would progress more quickly if these same pharmaceutical companies were involved in the research with funding.

Increased demand for contraceptive methods

According to a recent UN report, half of all pregnancies worldwide are unplanned7. Unplanned pregnancies are more frequent in socially disadvantaged and low-income regions, because contraceptives are unfortunately not cheap and women often bear the costs alone. For example, women spend an average of 68 percent more on private healthcare costs than men. The reason for this: Condoms are considerably cheaper than other contraceptive methods for women.

The landmark decision “Roe v. Wade” (1973), overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2022 – which had offered everyone the right to terminate a pregnancy – is also increasing demand for contraceptive methods. This decision not only impacts abortions, but also limits access to birth control pills in some states. According to a survey8 conducted by Lovehoney in the U.S., 40% of women say the repeal of Roe v. Wade will affect their sexual pleasure. Among the Gen Z group (between 12-27 years old), the figure is as high as 68% of women.


References:

[1] We-Vibe study “Future of male contraceptives” (June – August 2022). Within this study, seven experts and 3,549 people from seven different countries (France, UK, US, Canada, Spain, Germany, Switzerland) were interviewed.

[2] New Male Contraceptives May Be on the Horizon | 2020-08-28 [Internet]. Relias Media | Online Continuing Medical Education | Relias Media – Continuing Medical Education Publishing. [cited 2022 Aug 8]. Available from: https://www.reliasmedia.com/articles/146800-new-male-contraceptives-may-be-on-the-horizon

[3] NES/T – Nestorone and Testosterone as a combination gel that is absorbed through the skin on the shoulders and arms and shows minimal side effects. Expected to be available on the US market from 2027.

[4] RISUG – Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance – a long-term, non-hormonal and reversible contraceptive expected to be launched in India from 2022.

[5] How close are we to getting a male contraceptive? [Internet]. Pharmaceutical Technology. 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 8]. Available from: https://www.pharmaceutical-technology.com/news/how-close-are-we-to-getting-a-male-contraceptive/

[6] Reynolds-Wright JJ, Cameron NJ, Anderson RA. Will Men Use Novel Male Contraceptive Methods and Will Women Trust Them? A Systematic Review. The Journal of Sex Research. 2021 Sep 2;58(7):838–49.

[7] Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion Worldwide [Internet]. Guttmacher Institute. 2020 [cited 2022 Aug 8]. Available from: https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide

 

Images: Envato

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