Male Contraception

Women are generally considered as lesser creatures compared to men, in the terms of physical strength and emotional stability (you see that I don’t talk about intelligence here). Despite of that, women were asked to be a super human being nowadays. They have jobs (either for their self-fulfillment or for supporting the family income), they’re expected to be great moms at home (cooking, washing, cleaning the house, deemed responsible for their children’s education), and great wives for the husband (domestic and outside the house, such as parties, meetings, etc). On top of that, when it comes to the procreation, they have the bigger burden: 9-months of pregnancy, childbirth, and baby-sitting. When the husbands don’t want too many kids, it is the wives who have to prevent the pregnancy. And when their fertility aren’t coming back after the use of contraception, it was they who are to blame. It’s a hard and sometimes unrewarding life women have.

Contraception, for those un-conservatives who do not oppose to it, has been taken for granted for prevent pregnancy. Most methods of contraception are for female part of the couple, has brought concern in gender-aware females. Most contraception for females are hormone-based, such as pill, injection, and implant, caused hormonal changes in female body, causing menstrual irregularities, weight gain, acne, and vascular problem. Hormonal contraception users have the usual complain of delayed recovery of fertility after discontinuation of the contraception. Other female contraception such as IUD causes a lot of discomfort and excessive menstrual bleeding. Cycle method (abstinence) is not reliable, since women have a lot of menstrual cycle changes, depend on their physical and mental conditions. Diaphraghm is difficult to use (according to me, that is) and chemical contraceptions are not very effective. Tubectomy is not reversible. In short, female body has to bear the burden of contraception, so that the couple can limit the number of their offspring, to guarantee that they have enough fund for their children’s education and, hopefully, assuring a better future for the children. Fewer children and enough interval between births also enable women to pursue their career, an achievement women need nowadays for their self-esteem.

Male has been asking to take part (a small part, that is) in the burden, by giving the options of coitus interruptus, vesectomy, and condom. Coitus interruptus needs a lot of control in the male part, which I think is practically impossible, since men are notorious for their poor self-control when their heads are occupied with sex. Condoms is not very popular for men (although some type of condoms are very polular with women) since as a second skin, it reduces the sensation. Condoms also do not have 100% protection (remember one of those Friends episode, where Rachel get pregnant?). Vasectomy is usually a last option, men hate doctors messed around with their scrotum. So you see, expecting men to take off some of women’s burden is still a long way to go.

Recently, a new method for male contraception is developed and still in clinical trial. And it’s hormonal. But I doubt this method will be popular. Asking men to eat birth control pill everyday? Impossible. But it sure give more options for preventing pregnancy. I read in NewScientist that maybe when it come to the commercial world, it will also available in injection, gel, or patch. When a woman is in a condition that will render her harm to take a hormonal contraception, her male partner can take over.

Male hormonal contraception methods work in a similar way to those used by women. While female treatments suppress ovulation, sperm production can be prevented by giving the male hormones androgen and progestagen. These can either lead to no sperm being produced in semen, or very low sperm counts too low to lead to conception – fewer than three million sperm per millilitre compared to a fertile level of 20 million. Two treatments – one injection and one implant – are currently
being tested in advanced clinical trials.
Dr Peter Liu, from the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, looked at 30 studies into male hormone contraceptives. He found that men who had used some form of sperm suppressant contraception for a year took an average of three to four months to return to fertile levels of sperm production. Older age, being of Asian origin, shorter treatment duration and higher sperm concentrations prior to hormone treatment were all linked to faster rates of recovery. (Lancet 367; 2006)

Interesting: being Asian origin is linked to faster rates of recovery. Does this mean Asian men are more fertile than their European and American counterpart?

Photos taken from: BBC

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