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November 29, 2018

Researchers are testing a new form of male birth control — and it's a gel

But will men forget to apply daily? Study will find out

Men's Health Birth Control
men-male-birth-control-pexels Helena Lopes/Pexels

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has funded a study to explore the efficacy of a new form of male birth control.

Unlike the birth control pills or injections that women use, this new male birth control is a gel that is rubbed into the shoulders and back daily to be absorbed through the skin. It is designed to gradually lower sperm counts to prevent a man from impregnating a woman.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the NIH, will enroll about 420 couples around the world to test how well the gel works to prevent pregnancy. Tests also would assess how well people like the gel and whether men will use it as directed.

The gel formula, which is called NES/T, includes a progestin-containing compound called segesterone acetate, which is made under the brand name Nestorone, along with a dose of testosterone.

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“The male has very low levels of progesterone normally. Now they are exposed to a high amount, and that tells the testes, ‘Oh, there is a lot of steroid around so I don’t need to make more now’,” said Diana Blithe, chief of NICHD’s Contraceptive Development Program, in a statement.

NBC News reported:

It’s formulated as a gel because Nestorone does not get absorbed by the body when it’s taken orally, and testosterone does not stay in the body for a full day when taken as a pill. Both hormones last longer and work better when dosed through the skin.

Of course, no birth control is 100 percent effective, though many are close. Factoring in “typical use,” or the reality of imperfect use in those taking birth control, men could forget to use the gel for a day with no consequences. “If they stop using it for three, four, or five days, then it won’t work the way it is supposed to,” Blithe warned.

Despite growth in the male birth control field, there is currently no commercial male hormonal contraceptive on the U.S. market. Men must choose either condoms or vasectomy, so every bit of research in this department is crucial.

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