This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Friday, March 23, 2018

A New Birth Control Pill--for Men!

The birth control options for men have historically been very limited. We know that the Bible references withdrawal (coitus interruptus), but its effectiveness is very limited. Some type of condom has probably been used over the centuries, but not until the mid-19th century did the rubber condom come onto the market. The condom is, in fact, an effective measure of birth control, but most users don't like it, so the motivation has to be high for it to be regularly used. Until now, that was it when it came to temporary measures of birth control for men. Vasectomies have been available for nearly a century, but younger men, in particular, are not apt to opt for a permanent measure of birth control. 

So, the good news for men this week has come from researchers at the University of Washington who seem to have generated a birth control pill for men, as reported today by the Washington Post:
This week marks a new addition to the annals of contraceptive history: dimethandrolone undecanoate, a potential new birth control pill for men, is being touted as the “best hope” for a nonpermanent male contraceptive option yet.
Developed with funding from the National Institutes of Health by a team at the University of Washington, the formula is a tweaked version of previous failed attempts
While it comes with caveats — the pill must be taken with food to be effective, tests showed that usage had slight negative effect on cholesterol levels and over time might raise the risk of heart disease — right now the drug has shown itself to be safe for short-term use. (The next step? A trial that will show whether the pill decreases sperm production, followed by another test that will measure its efficacy in control groups of married and long-term partnered men.)
Will men use it? The author of this article isn't sure, especially since she points out that this male pill has the same side-effect as female methods--the risk of weight gain. It seems to me, though, that it is bound to gain momentum if the clinical trials are successful. Will it affect the birth rate? Perhaps not, since over the years, I have repeatedly heard women say that they would never trust a man who told them he was using a male contraceptive. Since it is still women who bear the burden of pregnancy, women are unlikely to rely on their male partner to avoid a pregnancy if they themselves do not want to chance a pregnancy.

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