Male Birth Control Coming To A Husband Near You
The male birth control pill that you’ve been hearing so much about lately is actually showing some promise according to Livescience. The female birth control pill uses hormones to control the release of a mature egg but some scientists are taking a different route with male contraception. Although hormonal methods are being explored, researchers at Columbia University have determined that controlling vitamin A prevents the formation of new sperm. Yet, the pill has a very high bar to clear with the FDA.
When you consume vitamin A, your body converts it into the metabolically active form, retinoic acid, which binds to a protein in your cells called a retinoic acid receptor. Then, the receptor protein can initiate the expression of genes necessary for the creation of sperm, if you are a man.
Yet another alternative is the attempt to make men temporarily sterile. Dr. John Amory, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, has been testing a drug that interferes with the action of the enzyme that converts vitamin A to its “active form” in the testis. Either method of controlling vitamin A is worried to produce side effects considering that it will be blocking the receptor.
Although there have been successful attempts at controlling sperm production, the question now is of safety clearance. Women’s birth control has always carried the small risk of blood clots as well as other side effects, yet the looming threat of an unintended pregnancy takes priority. Dr. Amory says, “You can’t use the same justification for a male contraceptive” given the tinkering with vitamin A.
That may be so given a side-by-side comparison between the sexes, but the sentiment behind such a statement does not do much to change the landscape of contraception to include men — an endeavor worth making. Saying that the “same justification” for health risks cannot be made of men shoulders the responsibility of birth control to women, who take health risks every day while on the pill.
At present, the FDA has yet to approve any form of the male birth control pill but Diana Blithe, a program director for contraceptive development at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development, comments that the only factor preventing this product from getting approved is the companies themselves. She told Livescience:
“The reality is we could get a product out there very quickly if companies would aggressively take on the process of making it happen.”