Having to buy a morning-after pill can be taxing on your wallet. An IUD is neither comfortable nor a pleasant experience women want to endure. Remembering to take the Pill religiously every day can be tough.
Historically, the responsibility of contraception has heavily fallen on the shoulders of women – a problem that has received much debate yet has received little action. But now a new contractive option for men may become available, and it’s definitely a welcome relief for many.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the start of a trial for a male contraceptive in gel form, called NES/T. The gel, rubbed into the shoulders daily, contains a combination of testosterone and a progestin compound called Nestorone. The progestin blocks a male’s natural testosterone production, thus gradually reducing sperm count. The testosterone then ensures sex drive and other bodily functions aren’t disrupted and continue as normal.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), part of the NIH, is enrolling 420 couples from around the world to test how well the gel works to prevent pregnancy, and also examine how well people like it and whether men will use it as directed.
In the first phase of the study, the men will apply the gel daily for four to 12 weeks to examine if there are any side effects. If their sperm levels haven’t decreased enough to prevent pregnancy after 12 weeks, they’ll continue using the gel for up to 16 weeks.
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Once sperm levels have decreased enough to be considered as an effective contraceptive, the couples will be monitored for another 52 weeks to see if it actually works to prevent pregnancy. Following that, the men will be monitored for another 24 weeks once they have stopped using the gel to see if there are any side effects.
“This is the first time that men are using it as part of a couple to test for effectiveness,” said Diana Blithe, chief of NICHD’s Contraceptive Development Program.
The Population Council, which developed the product and which is helping test it, said in a statement: “Worldwide, 85 million pregnancies (40 percent of all pregnancies) per year are unplanned, contributing to a higher incidence of adverse health outcomes for women and infants,”
Although the gel isn’t yet available and won’t be for a while, if successful, it will provide a sigh of relief for women and men worldwide.
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