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Birth Control for Men Could Soon Be on the Market

October 22, 2015

Women have birth control pills, diaphragms, IUDs and several other options to prevent pregnancy, but for men the options are minimal.

But that could change in the near future. Scientists are currently testing Vasalgel, a long-acting, non-hormonal contraceptive for men. Vasalgel is designed to be a "reversible" alternative to a vasectomy.

While a vasectomy is supposed to be permanent, Vasalgel isn’t. However, they both target the same area of the body, a tube called the vas deferens that is responsible for transferring sperm from the testicles and to the ejaculatory ducts. The vas deferens is about the same size as a string of spaghetti and only 3-5 millimeters wide. During a vasectomy, we cut the vas deferens, but with Vasalgel we inject a polymer — a human-made substance — into the vas deferens. The material then acts as a filter, blocking sperm and non-essential substances from getting through.

Right now, men only have two birth control options: a vasectomy or condoms. If they decide after a vasectomy that they do in fact want children, I understand that guys don’t like to talk about birth control, but as a men’s health advocate I feel something like Vasalgel may be a step in the right direction.

Clinical trials for Vasalgel could begin this year. With every product or procedure, there are certain risks and benefits. Though scientists have done clinical studies on animals and humans, we need to do more testing to find out just how Vasalgel may affect men and their long-term fertility. Theoretically, there’s a shot to reverse Vasalgel, but we don’t have any guarantees that this will work in every case. In preliminary studies, there has been reversal but what if it does not work for some patients because of an adverse reaction?

More importantly, compared to a vasectomy, we don’t yet know how effective Vasalgel is overall. However, what’s most concerning is the long-term potential health risks, because Vasalgel is a foreign substance that will be injected into the body. Bottom line, there are still a lot of unknowns with the technology.

It’ll likely be another three to five years become Vasalgel or something like it comes on the market. Either way, men who are exploring their family planning options should understand that whether it’s a vasectomy or Vasalgel, there are always three risks to consider: that these things can’t protect against sexual transmitted diseases, that there’s always a risk of failure (however small) and that there’s a possibility of complications. With a vasectomy, for example, 1-5% percent of patients can have chronic pain in their groin area or testicles after the procedure.

Birth control for men is still several years away, but there are still other, medically verified options for men to explore. If you’re interested in learning more about vasectomy reversal or other men’s health issues, please visit our website.