Polling shows over a third of men would want to take it, and research trials are looking positive. It's time to have an honest conversation about the male pillby Jade Azim / January 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
The Pill has been a constant part of the lives of millions of British women for more than half a century. The female hormonal contraceptive pill was introduced on the NHS in 1961—for married women. In 1967, the pill became available to all. It is now taken by 33 per cent of British sexually active women. Its popularity is a reflection of female sexual liberation in Britain from 1960s onwards. But it is nonetheless propagated on sexism.
Every hormonal contraception targeted at women comes with side effects and risks. At best, users risk suffering from headaches, tender breasts, weight gain, acne, pain, and continuous or irregular bleeding. At worst, they must weigh up the associated risks of blood clots, breast cancer, cervical cancer and liver cancer. It takes 10 years after taking the pill for these risks to go back to normal.
Other forms of contraception come with painful procedures or surgery. The price of liberation has been high and painful, and it is not until recently that we have begun the conversation about redistributing the burden of these risks.
Clinical trials for the introduction of a male contraceptive pill or gel have been underway for a while. The most promising drug, dimethandroline undecanoate (DMAU), safely combines an androgen, such as testosterone, with progestin, reducing production of sperm. It works similarly to the combined pill, with few side effects.
Scientists involved have said that DMAU is ‘unprecedented’ and a major step forward. Longer-term studies are underway to ensure its safety, with introduction potentially being possible in 5 years.
Some prior trials have been stopped because users experienced dangerous side effects including liver inflammation; others, however, considered headaches, weight gain, and acne too intolerable to continue pursuing a drug. All side effects, of course, have always been part of the deal for women taking the pill.
But in fact, the biggest obstacle to male contraception has simply been a lack of funding. Funders are not interested because they believe consumers are not interested. Large pharmaceutical companies have simply not invested in the research.
And amongst potential consumers, there remains a stubborn argument that may hinder interest and market demand: trust. After all, the biggest…