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When Will Male Birth Control Be Available? Trials Have Hit A Snag

Citing "depression and other mood disorders, muscle pain, acne and increased libido" as reasons to continue development and halt its release, the injected male contraceptive still needs a bit of work, researchers have decided. So when will male birth control be available? Though according to Chris Barratt, professor of reproductive medicine at the University of Dundee, this is the first "very significant and welcome development" in male contraception in the past "40-plus years," the proliferation of birth control shots for guys doesn't yet have a release date. Scientists have concluded that, as for now, the aforementioned side effects are too concerning to allow the contraceptives' release to the public yet.

Though vasectomies are effective, they're considered permanent, so researchers have been looking for less-invasive route. Administering hormones by method of injections every eight weeks, the shots drastically reduced sperm counts which helped to prevent potential pregnancies. Of the 320 participants, 1.57 pregnancies occurred per 100 subjects over 56 weeks of testing. Researchers thus concluded that "the contraceptive efficacy was relatively good compared with other reversible methods available for men." Richard Anderson, a professor of clinical reproductive science and author of the study, emphasized the shot's utility, saying: “If you’re comparing it to other reversible male methods, it’s far better than the condom and it puts it in the same ballpark as the pill."

The side effects of male hormonal contraception cannot be ignored, however. Researchers were sure to note in their conclusions that "the frequencies of mild to moderate mood disorders were relatively high" in the men using the reversible form of birth control. Twenty men dropped out of the study before its pre-determined end date because of these effects, and the contraceptives' side effects were ruled so extreme that the study was thus cut short by the safety committee.

Birth control side effects for women, including depression and mood disorders, are actually quite common. Seeing as the male birth control shot uses progesterone — a hormone commonly used in female birth control pills — the presence of similar side effects isn't terribly shocking. "Just as women experience mood changes as progesterone levels rise and fall, some of those same kinds of effects occur in men," explains Doug Colvard, lead scientist on the study.

The development of easily reversible birth control methods for men promotes equality; Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a urology specialist, told United Press International that she believes "there are many men who want to take responsibility, and we need to provide them an option." Inadvertently, it appears that men might have to take equal responsibility of the side effects, too. Regardless of all the unpleasantness, 75 percent of the men included in the study responded that they would use the method were it commercially available.

Whenever it becomes available, it seems the male contraceptive injection, like its female counterparts, will have a good number of supporters.