Could A Birth Control Pill For Men Be On The Horizon?

Nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. With more than 40% of babies delivered after an unplanned pregnancy being born to a single mother, the health consequences and socioeconomic burden of unintended pregnancy have historically weighed more heavily on women — much like the duty of not becoming pregnant in the first place (per National Library of Medicine).

Despite years of criticism and wondering why more wasn't being done to change the narrative, the responsibility for preventing pregnancy has fallen disproportionately on women. Aside from sterilization, hormonal birth control options — with their potential hazards to women's health — have long been a sexually active woman's best bet for avoiding pregnancy. However, a new study published in Nature Communications on Tuesday suggests that the playing field may soon be a little more level, as researchers believe they have developed an effective birth control pill for men.

Since their development, women's contraceptive pills have worked by flooding the body with estrogen and progesterone. These hormones can produce short-term side effects like nausea, weight gain, headache, and mood disorders, as well as long-term consequences like cervical cancer. However, the contraceptive designed for men works without the use of hormones. Instead, it inhibits an enzyme that plays a critical role in sperm's ability to mature and swim to the egg (per CBS News).

How 'the pill' for men works

While women's birth control pills require continuous use in order to be effective, researchers say that this pill is more of an "on-demand" option. It's designed to be taken in the moments prior to having sex, similar to performance enhancers like Viagra.

So far, the medication has only been tested on mice, but with encouraging results. "The effect started within 30 minutes after dosing and the mice were completely infertile for the subsequent two hours," said Lonny Levin — one of the studies co-senior researchers (per U.S. News). The study also notes that the following day, the mice — along with their ejaculate — were back to normal with no adverse side effects.

Levin explains that there's a lot more work that needs to be done before they can test the medication on humans, but suggests that the promising results might one day lead to a world where "men can be equal partners in family planning and people should not have to take a contraceptive every day of their lives in order to control their fertility."