Researchers are studying new contraceptive methods for men

A woman is holding a pack of contraceptive pills. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

SALT LAKE CITY (KTVX) — University of Utah Health scientists can finally offer a solution to women suffering from common but often debilitating side effects of birth control — with the help of their partners.

The hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, has announced it will be testing a new male contraceptive gel.

Previous research on the subject led researchers to believe that the hormone gel reduced a man’s sperm count. In other words, the gel decreases the user’s chances of conceiving a child without affecting their sex drive.

“In our society, women had the primary responsibility for birth control because they, not necessarily men, had to live with the consequences,” says David Turok, MD, MPH, one of the study’s principal investigators and director of the family planning division at the department in Obstetrics and Gynecology from U of U Health. “This is a great opportunity for men to get involved and take an active role in the development of new birth control methods. This way they can show their partners that they are investing in a better future for all of us.”

Today, straight, sexually active men who want to minimize both their own and their partner’s risk of pregnancy have limited options. The new gel, developed by the Population Council and the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), could help solve this problem by expanding contraceptive options, Turok says.

The gel consists of two hormones – a synthetic progesterone called Nestorone and a replacement testosterone. Nestorone’s function is to block natural testosterone production in the testicles and reduce sperm count, while the replacement testosterone helps maintain sex drive and other hormone-dependent natural functions.

The gel is applied to the man’s shoulders and its effects are reversible over time.

Scientists are inviting a total of 12 couples to participate in the two-year study, which is part of a nationwide Phase 2 clinical trial supported by the National Institutes of Health. While it is not required that participants be U of U Health patients, there are some requirements:

  • All participants must be healthy and between the ages of 18 and 50 (men) and 18 to 34 (women).
  • All participants must have been sexually active in a stable, mutually monogamous relationship for at least one year.
  • Participants must have no history of infertility problems.
  • Women must have regular menstrual cycles of between 21 and 35 days.

Throughout the study, researchers will track the effectiveness of the gel, how carefully men apply the gel, as well as monitor each man’s sperm count and testosterone levels, while evaluating the acceptability of the gel as a birth control method.

At the beginning of the study, the men are asked to apply the gel once a day. Couples are asked to use additional forms of contraception for the first four to six months of the study to allow time for the gel to take full effect. After the scientists have established a sufficient drop in sperm count, the couples will use the hormone gel as their only form of birth control for the next 12 months.

After a year, the men stop using the gel and the research team will track their sperm count for at least four months after the study, or until it returns to a normal range.

Couples who choose to participate in the full two-year study have the option to receive benefits of up to $3,490.

For more information about the study click here or to make a request to participate in the study click here.

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