Could it be that, finally, after all these years, a new birth control method for dudes is on the scene? Kinda sounds like it based on recent headlines, but we're not popping any corks quite yet (pun totally intended). The last thing we want to do is rain on a birth-control-related parade, but it will be years before the average Joe can actually use this newfangled birth control gel.
The study that's been capturing so much press was carried out by a large team of researchers, with 99 men in Seattle and Los Angeles who volunteered to test the new gel. The researchers found that men who put the gel—which contains testosterone and progestin—on their skin every day had low sperm counts. How low? Experts think it’s low enough to provide 99% effective birth control. But since this was an early study, all the guys and their partners used another method of birth control in addition to the gel, just in case, so we don’t know for sure exactly how effective the gel would be when used on its own.
Don't get us wrong—there's plenty to be excited about:
This was the first test of a male hormonal birth control method that could be a DIY/at-home affair. So far, the other male hormonal methods that have been tested here require visits to a doctor’s office every 6-8 weeks for shots.
The progestin used in this gel is called Nesterone. It’s one of the newer progestins and may be more effective in a male hormonal contraceptive than the other progestins that have been tested.
Other research has shown that male hormonal contraceptives are reliably reversible, with full fertility returning in about 3 months. Same goes for this gel.
But the gel isn’t ready for prime-time yet. Just under 90% of the volunteers had the target low sperm count—the other 10% didn’t respond well, and researchers are still working on understanding why. Only about 60% of the volunteers in the study made it through at least 5 months of the study. It’s not clear why the others dropped out—for that, we have to wait for rest of the study results to be published. In any case, the gel needs more studies and a review by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it'll get anywhere near the market.