For years, both men and women have been clamoring for a male birth control pill. Women find it unfair that they are responsible for taking the pill or getting an IUD to prevent pregnancy. Men, too, want the ability to control their sperm count without relying on condoms. Scientists have recently developed a shot for men that they say is as effective as the pill for women, but it comes with certain side effects that some men think makes it ultimately not worth it. Many have wondered why a birth control pill for men has never been created, with some speculating that it’s due to society’s gender bias that says women are ultimately responsible for babies. Although attitude plays a part in it, a bigger reason is that it’s easier to prevent the insemination of a single egg than to try to control millions of sperm. It’s also because men have long had the option of a vasectomy. A vasectomy cuts the vas deferens, preventing the release of sperm. This is an almost completely effective way to prevent pregnancy and is reversible in most cases, but many men don’t want to go under the knife. With this new shot, they won’t have to have surgery to prevent pregnancy. A recent study followed 266 men who received this shot and tracked their sexual habits. Of these men, only four became fathers in the 56 weeks tracked by the studies, giving it a 95 percent success rate. Although this was encouraging, the men did report some complications. The shot works by affecting the hormone levels in men, which can lead to some pretty unpleasant side effects in the participants. The research actually had to be stopped early because the men were reporting severe mood swings and depression related to the shots. Other minor side effects reported included acne, injection site pain, and increased libido. Doctors are convinced that they can tweak the shot to make these side effects less problematic, but there may not be enough money available from pharmaceutical companies to take this shot to market. That’s because of the gender bias mentioned above; these companies are not convinced that men will actually pay for this shot, no matter how effective it may be. Many women, however, are unsympathetic to the concerns of these men. That’s because women already deal with these side effects from birth control and have for decades. To them, it seems a bit hypocritical that men are willing or unable to tolerate the side effects and instead pass the burden of preventing an unwanted pregnancy to the woman. For their part, many young men are stepping up to say they would gladly get this shot and would tolerate the side effects. It’s less invasive than a vasectomy and more effective than condoms. Plus it would give men the ability to control if and when they get a woman pregnant. If enough men step up and tell pharmaceutical companies that there’s a profit to be made from this shot, it’s likely that research will continue. If they don’t, it’s likely that research will end.
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