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What are experimental male contraceptives?

This website summarizes the research of scientists around the world who are working toward new forms of contraception for men. Although several of these contraceptives are close to market, none are currently available. Some methods are still in basic science stages, some have been tested in animals only, while some have entered the process of clinical trials required for government approval.

The research reported on here has been published in widely available peer-reviewed science journals. If you would like more information on any particular method, see the References section at the bottom of each page for the source data.

If you are looking for information on existing male contraceptives – condoms or vasectomies – see the resources at Planned Parenthood or Engender Health.

Heat methods

It is widely anecdotally known that prolonged stints in a hot tub or tight brief-style underwear can decrease a man’s sperm count. Men might be able to use this to their advantage as a source of inexpensive self-administered contraception. Researchers are trying to determine the reliability of the contraceptive effect of wet heat and suspensories. Heat treatments are the only method reported on this site that a man with sufficient determination could undertake today.

Vas occlusion methods

Vasectomies seal or remove part of the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm through the reproductive tract. Vas occlusion methods block the vas deferens but aim to leave the tube intact, making reversal easier. Injectable silicone plugs are being used by thousands of men in China . Researchers in Canada and the US are developing a pre-formed silicone plug called the IVD that is implanted in the vas. A group of scientists in India have developed an injectable compound called RISUG that is now in Phase III clinical trials.

Hormonal methods

Two international pharmaceutical companies are working with a dozen universities and non-governmental organizations to develop a “male pill.” A male hormonal contraceptive would be analogous to female hormonal contraceptives; a combination of various hormones would suppress sperm production. The hormones would most likely be delivered as a semi-annual injection, implant, or both. This product is within 5 years of the European market.

Other pharmaceutical methods

A true male pill could come in the form of a non-hormonal pharmaceutical product. There are half a dozen potential male contraceptive drugs with very different contraceptive mechanisms. Some of these drugs, such as nifedipine and the 'dry orgasm' pill, are already government approved for the treatment of other maladies. Several plant-based compounds, such as gossypol and Tripterygium wilfordii, have proven very potent. Other drugs, such as an immunocontraceptive or Dr. Joseph Hall’s enzyme inhibitor pill, are still in the conceptual stages of development.

New and noteworthy

There are a few developing male contraceptive methods not reported on here that deserve mention. Two plant compounds, neem oil and papaya seed extract, merit further study. Another new development is the discovery of a set of genes, known as Catsper, that encode a series of calcium ion exchange channels specific to the male reproductive tract. The study of these genes will help us understand the contraceptive mechanism of calcium channel blocker drugs, and might suggest new treatment paths.



 


Reviews of male contraceptives in the news