10 Myths On Male Contraception Debunked

Aaron Hamlin
6 min readMay 29, 2015

Male contraception has lit up the news and we couldn’t be happier. But, of course, there are inaccuracies. You see missteps — sometimes more like misleaps — in comment sections, tweets, and even from reporters themselves.

These mistakes may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re advancing a controversial issue that’s already challenging, it doesn’t help to add extra hurdles. And so we’ve created a top-10 list of the most outrageous and frequent myths we see on male contraception.

Myth #1: Vasalgel is injected directly into the testicles … or the penis. (And it will hurt a lot!)

Vasalgel is injected into the vas deferens under a local anesthetic. The vas is the tube that carries sperm from the testicles into the body. There are two of them, one on each side. They each head upwards and to the side from the testes and go inside the body in the groin area above the scrotum. In fact, the vas is how Vasalgel got its name. Otherwise, it might be called something like … Testigel.

You can see a nice animation of how Vasalgel is injected into the vas below:

Bonus myth: Vasalgel and Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance (RISUG) are often used interchangeably. But Vasalgel (developed in the US) and RISUG (developed in India) are two different compounds that take similar approaches. Both are being researched separately.

Myth #2. Latest male contraceptive X is 100% effective.

No method will be 100% effective except perhaps segregating men and women altogether. Even sterilization by vasectomy or tubal ligation isn’t 100% effective and occasionally — though rarely — results in pregnancies.

The confusion here comes from small samples, which is how clinical trials start. When you have a small sample, it can be difficult to tell how effective a contraceptive is, particularly if it has a very low pregnancy rate. But given enough time and enough users, a pregnancy will happen.

Myth #3. Condoms will become irrelevant.

While condoms do have their drawbacks, they’re not going anywhere — even with new male contraceptives. (Notice that they didn’t go away after the Pill was invented either.) Condoms are still the most effective means of protecting against STIs. Those with new or casual partners will find condoms indispensable. They’re also cheap and easily accessible when other methods aren’t available. They’re even effective against pregnancy when used perfectly and for short periods of time, or when used simultaneously and perfectly with another method.

(This NERVE article manages to pack numerous myths into one article and was unfortunately read by thousands.)

Myth #4: Male contraceptives will affect your hormones.

There are researchers looking at male contraceptives that include testosterone. But many of the most promising methods — including all the ones on our site along with Vasalgel — are not hormonal methods.

It’s much more challenging to use hormones to stop the testes from making sperm than it is to use hormones to stop the ovaries from making eggs. The ovaries naturally stop ovulating during pregnancy, and very small amounts of female hormones will fool the ovaries into thinking a woman is pregnant. But there is no natural state when the testes stop making sperm. So it should be no surprise that many researchers are looking at nonhormonal approaches to male contraception.

Myth #5. No woman will trust their partner to use a male contraceptive.

In a study published in the journal Human Reproduction, women were surveyed across four countries. Only 2% of their sample said that they would not trust their partner to use a male contraceptive. Of those who stated mistrust, their objection focused on side effects. Many of even these small number of objections can be addressed through nonhormonal methods.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between asking the general question, “Would women trust their partners to use a male contraceptive?” and “Would you trust your partner to use a male contraceptive?” Further, if a woman didn’t trust her partner to use a male contraceptive, that shouldn’t bar him the opportunity to use one anyway. She can always take additional precautions if she chooses. Moreover, a method like Vasalgel would remove any questions of user error since there’s nothing for the man to remember.

Additionally, many men are interested in male contraception for their own sake so that they can have autonomy over their own fertility. And for them, whether their partner trusts them to, for instance, take a pill, is irrelevant.

Myth #6. Male contraception will be on the market this year.

No doubt many of us are excited to see new male contraceptives hit the market. But we want them to be safe and effective. And to do that means that we have to go through expensive and time consuming clinical trials. The soonest we can expect is 2018–2020, which is the best case scenario for Vasalgel. Other methods would likely be trailing behind that date. There is nothing that will hit the market this year in 2015 or the next.

Myth #7: No guy will ever use male contraceptives.

The over half a million men getting vasectomies every year, millions of condom users, and over 25,000 men on the waiting list for Vasalgel would be offended at such a statement.

Additionally, one in two US men are willing to use a new male contraceptive, according to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction. Only about 12% gave a flat-out “no”, and the rest were uncertain (possibly due to fears from hormones), which are moot with the methods we focus on.

Myth #8. Condoms are sufficient for preventing pregnancy.

That would be nice if it were true, but it isn’t. Condoms have undoubtedly played a huge role in human history by improving family planning and reducing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. But they are not sufficient for pregnancy prevention.

Used perfectly, condoms have a pregnancy rate of 2% over a year. But even in this best case scenario, the risk of pregnancy quickly increases over time. Worse still, the real-world annual pregnancy rate for the condom is 18%. Take that rate over time, and pregnancies are bound to occur. Condoms have done a lot over the years to prevent pregnancies, but they are not enough and are not a good long-term solution.

Myth #9. Men and women should not have sex if they don’t want a pregnancy.

This is an unfortunate objection that stigmatizes sex and ignores human nature. The fact is that the vast majority of people have sex before marriage, presumably before they want a child. This isn’t a recent phenomenon either. According to Public Health Reports, this goes back generations.

Myth #10. Male contraception will never happen.

This myth can partially be forgiven. There’s a joke among researchers that 20 years ago, the next new male contraceptive was just 10 years away. And it’s still just 10 years away!

But that’s not the case anymore. We’re close. Vasalgel should start human trials next year in 2016 and another method, Gendarussa, has given promising results in phase-2 human clinical trials in Indonesia. The Indonesian researchers are seeking funding for the final Phase 2/3 clinical trials needed for regulatory approval. Another method using an anti-Eppin drug has gone through primate studies. And there are a number of other methods going through animal trials.

Advances in biotechnology put us in a place we’ve never been before. It’s not a matter of whether male contraception will happen. It’s when.

Originally published at www.malecontraceptive.org on May 29, 2015.

--

--