Opinion: Birth Control Pill for Men, Will it Really Arrive?

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Opinión: Píldora anticonceptiva para hombres ¿Realmente llegará?

It's time for a birth control pill for men to become a reality. These are other alternative methods to hormonal contraception that have been associated with side effects that only women have had to deal with.

During the last week, the media has recorded the advances of a contraceptive pill for men that has been developed by the University of Minnesota and was 99% effective in tests carried out on mice. However, it is not the first time that this type of drug has been discussed for men. Still, today, in 2022, more than 50 years after the female pill began to be marketed, the day has not yet come when a “male pill” will be available on the market.

It is not necessary to be very suspicious to think that scientific advances are not the only reasons why this is not a reality. Social and commercial factors must be factored into this equation. With the figures of inequality, gender violence and the centuries of oppression towards women, it is not surprising that even the development of science is influenced by the macho culture. In addition, it could be deduced that with the success and diffusion of contraceptive pills, pharmaceutical companies are not interested in investing in the development of other types of studies.

In fact, conditions such as endometriosis are a clear example, since it is an underdiagnosed and masked disease, when coincidentally it only occurs in the female reproductive system. And it is that historically the claims of women have been made invisible or taken for minors.

We suggest you read: Endometriosis Day, an invisible disease

According to the United Nations, it is estimated that in 2019 of 1.9 billion women of reproductive age, 842 million used contraceptive methods. In fact, one of the Sustainable Development Goals is that family planning needs be met with modern methods of contraception, including, of course, the pill and other hormonal methods.

Although these types of contraceptives help prevent unwanted pregnancies, their side effects are not minor. It is enough to meet with a group of women to hear stories of how these pills cause changes in mood, lack of lubrication, headaches, weight gain, loss of libido, etc.

In fact, on several occasions, studies on the contraceptive pill for men, which have been carried out since the 1970s, have been stopped precisely because, being hormonal, they are associated with effects such as weight gain, depression and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. But of course, if we women suffer from them, it is not so reprehensible, in any case, menstruation already makes us "delicate" or, in the worst case, a little "hysterical".

Also, these drugs are used to cure a host of diagnoses such as menstrual pain, acne or heavy bleeding. However, there is already a consensus among many specialists that, in reality, the symptom is attacked, but the causes are not sought to be solved.

On the other hand, it is surprising how little education there is about the functioning of the body itself and fertility. Few people really know how a menstrual cycle happens, what kind of body fluids there are or what hormones are involved in the process. The curious thing is that, according to information from the World Health Organization, there are fertility recognition methods, which are not hormonal, that can be even more effective than the condom.

However, they do not generate economic benefits for anyone because they are based on the observation of symptoms, and the control and knowledge of one's own body. While women are fertile for a few days a month, about a week, men can be fertile 365 days a year. In this sense, knowledge is power, and more power is needed to decide how to manage fertility in a responsible, effective and informed way, without having to sacrifice other aspects of health. Above all, you need to know the alternatives and share the responsibilities.

If we want a world that is truly equitable and equal for men and women, it is urgent that scientific developments are also equitable. The novelty of the latest contraceptive pill for men that is being talked about is that it does not alter hormones, so side effects seem to be minimal . Hopefully the human tests are positive and this alternative reaches the market in a short time.

In this regard, research published in Current Obstetrics and Gynecology Reports found that about 50% of men would accept a new male method in the form of pills. It also noted that “Assuming a market size of 10 million men in the US and 50 million men worldwide, the market value of a new male contraceptive method is estimated at 40 to 200 billion dollars”. So the impediments are getting smaller. At least, in social resistance in an important segment of the population.

However, to make this a reality, convergence in the action and promotion of governments, non-governmental agencies, the pharmaceutical industry, academia and civil society is necessary. The work of feminist groups and many women scientists has been fundamental in pointing out the injustice and discrimination that also exists in science. Echoing these arguments, without falling into visceral hatred, is also a way of drawing attention to an issue that affects half the population and that requires urgent changes.