For decades, guys have worried about their girlfriends remembering to take the pill -- but soon, the responsibility may be on both genders. Or even just men.
No, the male birth control pill isn't here -- but the male birth control gel is on its way, assuming the human trials go well. (Research has already proven the procedure effective at preventing pregnancy in baboons.) Here's everything you need to know about the potential future of contraceptives...
What is this magical pregnancy-preventing drug?
It's called "Vasalgel," but it's not exactly a drug. It's a non-hormonal polymer gel that temporarily blocks sperm from flowing through guys' tubes. Simplified tenfold, it's a reversible vasectomy -- minus the cutting.
You said "reversible," right?
Yep. The gel is injected into the vas deferens -- remember learning about those in 7th grade sex ed? -- a.k.a. the ducts that transport sperm.
Wait, it's injected where?
"The tube that connects the testes with the urethra." Want some Tylenol?
OK, OK, fine...tell me more.
The gel forms a wall that effectively stops any sperm from swimming to the motherland. When it's time to reverse the procedure months or even years later, a second injection flushes out the polymer wall and restores the sperm flow. Compare this to a traditional vasectomy, where the vas deferens are permanently cut.
Is it 100% effective?
In the animal study, male baboons on Vasalgel were each given unrestricted, uh, play time with 10 to 15 female baboons. There were no female pregnancies in six months of baboon hanky panky. Earlier research on rabbits also supports the reversibility of the procedure.
When can I get this? WHEN?!
Human trials for Vasalgel are planned to start next year. The trials will be small to start off, but larger trials will start in 2016. The Parsemus Foundation, the nonprofit behind the new contraceptive, hopes Vasalgel will hit the market by 2017.
How much will it cost, even though I will pay anything?
As a company that supports under-researched medical approaches, Parsemus wants to make the procedure as widely available (and inexpensive) as possible.
"A contraceptive shouldn’t cost more than a flat-screen TV," their website states. "It is likely that the cost for the doctor visit will be more than for [Vasalgel]. We’ll also work to get it covered by insurance." Sounds good to us!
But as with many things in life, money is a limiting factor for Vasalgel. It's much more profitable for the pharmaceutical industry to sell monthly birth control pills to women over years and years rather than a one-time procedure to men. As The Daily Beast puts it, "Why sell a flat-screen television to a man, after all, when you can rent one to a woman for a decade?"
How will this affect my life?
The widespread availability of male birth control -- which could very well be a thing in just three short years -- would completely change the conversation around sexual health. Would boyfriends use Vasalgel while their girlfriends took the pill? Or would one method rule over the other? What about insurance policies -- would employers be required to provide coverage for male contraceptives?
These are questions that only time will answer. In the meantime, we're just excited about the possibility of a new non-hormonal contraceptive. In addition to being ridiculously expensive, hormonal birth control methods like the pill or IUDs can come with a host of harmful side effects -- everything from depression to an increased risk of heart disease and blood clots. One of the great things about Vasalgel is that it doesn't interfere with guys' testosterone levels. That's awesome.
So can I stop using condoms during hookups?
NO! Vasalgel won't protect against STD transmission. Even with Vasalgel, guys will still ejaculate seminal fluid -- which can carry HIV or other infections. So don't go ditching the condoms just yet.