Male Birth Control Found Effective, Despite Stunted Study

by Myla Cruz

A study following a successful new form of male birth control has been cut short, due to side effects that women have endured for a long time. Co-sponsored by the United Nations and published Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, it tested the safety and effectiveness of a hormone-shot contraceptive on 320 healthy men in monogamous relationships with female partners. The subjects were between the ages of 18 and 45, and they participated from 2008 until the study’s recent termination. 

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According to this piece from ABC, the shot works by injecting 200 milligrams of norethisterone enanthate, essentially a derivative of the female hormones progesterone and estrogen, and 1000 milligrams of synthetic testosterone into the body. Dr. Seth Cohen, a urologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, says when men receive this shot of testosterone, "The brain assumes the body is getting enough [testosterone]," so the body shuts down its own production. He then explains how the progestin, "further drives the brain malfunction, so it stops the testicle's production of both testosterone and sperm.” 

Although it proves statistically effective for the 320 men and their partners, 20 participants dropped out of the study early due to a list of side effects. A total of 1,491 adverse events were reported, some including injection site pain, muscle pain, increased sex drive, acne, mood swings and depression. The reported side effects prompted a safety review panel in 2011 to stop the trial from recruiting new test subjects, while allowing ongoing subjects to continue treatment. This action has now culminated in the study’s recent completion. 

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The researchers say that nearly 39% of these symptoms were unrelated to the shots.  When testing birth control specifically, it’s unethical to give a placebo to a control group, because it could result in unwanted pregnancy. So, there’s no real way to gauge or compare the results against a control group, giving these reports a flawed perspective. 

Additionally, many women are accurately pointing out that the symptoms sound extremely familiar. This Medical News piece shows that the common side effects women experience from using female birth control also include acne, weight gain, depression, and mood swings, amongst a wealth of other debilitating discomforts and bodily reactions. 

While the process of birth control is a controversial one, the idea that our world is exploring new options to spread out the responsibility of contraception feels important. For a more physically and spiritually healthy world, it’s worth keeping an open mind. 

What do you think about this male birth control debacle? Tell us in the comment section below!

Watch on Z Living: Birth Days, which chronicles the non-stop adventures of parents—and their newborns—as they spend their first six weeks together. See a sneak peek here.

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