Birth Control Pills for Men Might Exist Soon, But Would They Take Them?

A new breakthrough down under (no pun intended) means that male birth control pills might become a reality in the next 10 years. (That's 120 packs of Ortho Tri-Cyclen.) Scientists from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences and researchers from the University of Leicester and the University of Melbourne discovered a process that stopped sperm moving through male mice's reproductive organs by "disrupting" two proteins that unleash sperm during ejaculation. The next challenge is obviously this: can scientists replicate this little protein manipulation into a conveniently packaged, reasonably-affordable male birth control pill?

"The next step is to look at developing an oral male contraceptive drug, which is effective, safe, and readily reversible," researcher Sabatino Ventura said.

It's not like researchers haven't tried to reach this, um, "holy grail of fertility scientists" before, but previous attempts have focused on hormones or messing with the sperm — efforts that have either interfered with sexual activity or could lead to permanent sterility. With this process, nothing would happen to the sperm, and hormones wouldn't be tampered with.

Of course, there's another obvious challenge here: would guys actually take a pill? Contraception is a domain that's (so far) been left largely to women. Despite a recent shift in thinking that birth control is both parties' responsibility, the most responsibility a guy can really take himself these days (short of surgery) is putting on a condom. And many dudes struggle with even that.

Esquire's 2012 Sex Survey indicated that only 34 percent of men wear a condom during sex because "they like to be careful" (you gents!), while 11 percent said they didn't wear one because they didn't like them (but presumably like STDs). Fifty-six percent of men said they were in a committed relationship, so they didn't see the need to use them.

If men are not altogether willing to put on a condom, will they really be up for a pill that physically blocks sperm? With the concept of masculinity still tied (in however caveman-like a way) to men's reproductive ability, will they be able to deal with the concept?

Let it be known, however, that if successful, this new pill doesn't mean men are being sterilized. Their sperm will stay put, swimming happily about in the epididymis, wherever the hell that is: "[It works] without affecting the long-term viability of sperm or the sexual or general health of males," Ventura said. "The sperm is effectively there, but the muscle is just not receiving the chemical message to move it."

If men are able to take the pill, maybe we ladies don't have to put up with the hormonal overload that comes from our monthly packs of Yasmin. From the Guardian:

Women: throw your knickers in the air. And while you're at it, chuck your hormonal contraception out the window, for the male pill is on the way. It's time for the dudes to take care of business. No more doctor's appointments, repeat prescriptions, injections, mood swings and irritability for us.

While throwing my knickers in the air sounds like jolly good fun, we'll just have to wait and see what researchers develop.

Image: Rutty/Flickr