Male birth control tested

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Research presented at a recent conference in Seattle showed significant progress toward introducing a male birth control pill, said Dr. Diana Blithe, the program director for the Contraceptive Development Research Centers Program.

“We’re very much closer to having products available,” she said.

Blithe confirmed that the University of California at Los Angeles and University of Washington representatives cited research supporting this possibility at the Future of Male Contraception conference.

The conference, held Sept. 27 and 28, addressed progress toward a male contraceptive, including a testosterone-like pill that is already being tested on humans, as well as successful testing in monkeys for a non-hormonal pill.

Some students, however, don’t think male contraceptives will catch on quickly with the male student population.

Bryan King, Pennsylvania State University sophomore, cited complacency as a barrier to men on campus using it.

“A lot of guys will be against it,” he said. “They will think of it as a ‘girl thing.’ Other guys will be too lazy to take it daily, but I’m sure in time it will be accepted.”

Spring Cooper, a health educator at the University Health Services (UHS) who recently completed her Ph.D. in biobehavioral health and teaches a health and human sexuality class, said a male pill could raise questions between sexually active partners.

“Should the female always be responsible for birth control if they’re not using condoms?” she said. “A couple can decide who is putting the pill into their body.”

Cooper also pointed out that if the woman has had trouble with birth control, the pill for men could present another option in a relationship.

While the female birth control pill is only available in hormone-controlling formats, non-hormonal pills may become available to men. One of the non-hormonal pills being tested would act as a “sperm-blocker,” Cooper said. She said this pill would be a non-permanent alternative to a typically irreversible process like a vasectomy.

Cooper and Simon Holowatz, another UHS health educator, agreed that a determining factor in the success of a male contraceptive pill would be an issue of trust.

Cooper said many female students she has encountered in her class wouldn’t trust their male partners to take the pill.

“A woman has a lot more invested in the actual pregnancy, so she may be more likely to take the pill,” she said. However, she added that a lot of men in her class said they would be interested in the male pill as a means to relieve problems in relationships.

Daniel Frattura (senior-crime, law and justice) warned against the thinking that the pill will give men free license to pursue sexual activities.

“I think people will say [can have sex all the time], but it still won’t block from STDs and all that stuff,” he said.

Holowatz agreed.

“Male contraceptives will prevent pregnancy, but… you can still contract a sexually-transmitted infection.”