Science Says This Is Why Male Birth Control Is Taking So Long To Become A Thing

by Caroline Burke

There's nothing more frustrating than realizing you forgot to take a birth control pill for a day... or three... or seven. Birth control is an amazing, empowering tool for any woman, but that's the thing: Oftentimes it's a tool, first and foremost, and tools can sometimes be disappointing or prone to user error. It seems like there's a new, more innovative form of female birth control on the market every few years now, which is amazing, but at the same time, you have to wonder: With so many options for female contraceptives, why isn't there male birth control in addition to female birth control? As it turns out, the answer is a little bit more complicated than you'd think, and it has to do with the differences in men and women's reproductive systems.

First, let's do a little refresher on female birth control. Female birth control works to suppress the release of eggs from your ovaries, basically imitating the symptoms of a pregnancy. Male birth control, in order to serve a similar function, would have to suppress sperm production entirely, which is more difficult because sperm is continuously produced by a man's testicles, rather than on a cycle like female eggs.

Attempts at creating comparable male birth control have led to severe mood disorders and mental health changes in the men who've tried the medication.

For example, a 2016 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed the lack of success in an injectable form of male birth control. There was some good news that came out of the research: The male birth control tested in the study was about 96 percent effective in suppressing sperm concentration of the 320 men who participated, and only four pregnancies occurred over the entire period of the long-term research. But the bad news is that the birth control, though effective in suppressing sperm production, apparently led to frequent and severe mood disorders among the male participants.

For every woman out there who's been on birth control, you're probably a little bit exasperated about those findings, because yeah, we also have to deal with mood changes when we protect ourselves with various forms of birth control. But in all seriousness, the frequency and severity of the mood disorders in this study appeared to be pretty significant, with 20 men out of the 320 in the study dropping out due to the side effects, which included general mood changes, and in some cases, depression.

Of course, there are other types of male birth control in the works.

One of the most promising methods is a male birth control pill that's currently being developed by Gunda Georg, a researcher, professor, and director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development at the University of Minnesota. INSIDER reports that Georg and her colleagues are working on a type of male birth control that is apparently based on a plant extract that African warriors have traditionally used as fatal poison on their arrows (now this, I can get on board with). According to Georg, this pill won't exactly aim to stop a man's sperm production entirely, but instead, it will attack the sperm's motility — i.e. its ability to swim to a female egg and fertilize it.

Unfortunately, this pill is still in the early stages of creation and won't be available on the market for several years. In the meantime, the only effective and safe forms of birth control for men to use are condoms and vasectomy procedures, which is pretty f*cking archaic if you ask me.

For now, the safest option for women is to protect themselves, rather than wait for a guy to bring a condom, or even trust when he says he'll "pull out."

There are way too many safe, affordable options for birth control for you to leave it up to a glow-in-the-dark condom that was purchased three years ago, or to a shoddy method that claims to work, but most of the time doesn't.

If you do use condoms, make sure you see the condom yourself before choosing it as the barrier between you and pregnancy. Check the expiration date, and make sure there aren't any holes in the latex. Protecting yourself is the most important thing you can do while you wait for this fatal-but-not-really male birth control to come out. I know I'll be watching the clock on that one.