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Male Birth Control May Soon Be A Reality

RICHMOND Despite scientific advances, birth control options for men remain limited to condoms or vasectomy. There are also wing-and-a-prayer options such as pulling out (withdrawal) and outercourse.

Since half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended, there seems to be a real need for additional family planning methods that don’t rely solely on women. Many men express a desire to share this responsibility equally with their female partners. Even so, the gap in options is large.

Science has tried to fill the void, but multiple research studies have started and stopped over the course of many years. Some potential male birth control options are in the pipeline, but we don’t know when they’ll hit the market.

For now, the birth control methods men have used for decades will have to suffice.

In this article we’ll go over options men can use to prevent unintended pregnancy, and we’ll let you know what may be coming in the future.

What options are currently available for male birth control?

Condoms

Condoms are a type of barrier birth control. To prevent pregnancy, a condom is placed onto an erect penis and worn during vaginal intercourse. Condoms work by stopping semen from entering the vaginal canal, so an egg can’t be fertilized.

Condoms are usually made from latex or polyurethane. They may also be made from lamb membrane called lambskin.

Condoms come in various sizes and textures. Some are lubricated to make penetration easier and reduce friction, which can cause a condom to tear. Others are coated with spermicide for added protection against pregnancy.

Benefits

  • When used correctly, condoms are highly effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • They also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIVchlamydiagonorrhea, and syphilis.
  • Condoms are widely available and inexpensive, and they don’t require a prescription.

Risks

  • Condoms can rip or slip off if they don’t fit or aren’t put on correctly.
  • Condoms can expire or become damaged by light and heat. An old or dried-out condom may be more likely to tear during use.
  • If you or your partner has a latex allergy, you may have an allergic reaction to latex condoms. Symptoms include itching and swelling after sex.
  • Condoms lubricated with spermicide may increase the risk of urinary tract infections in people who have vaginas.

Cost

Condoms vary in price, based on the brand you’re buying and the retailer you’re shopping from. In general, a 24-count box of condoms will cost around $15.

Conventional vasectomy

Vasectomy, also known as male sterilization, is a surgical procedure designed to be permanent birth control.

During a vasectomy, your surgeon will divide and close off the ends of the tubes that transport sperm (the vas deferens). Since this stops sperm from entering seminal fluid, your ejaculate will not be able to inseminate your partner.

Conventional vasectomies are outpatient procedures. Since general anesthesia is not used, you’ll be awake during a vasectomy. Here’s how the procedure goes:

  • Your surgeon will numb your scrotum with a local anesthetic.
  • Your surgeon will make two small incisions on either side of your scrotum, which will allow them to reach the tubes that carry sperm out of each testicle (the vas deferens).
  • The surgeon will cut and remove a small section of each tube.
  • The surgeon will close the ends of the tubes, either by using heat or by tying them.

Recovery from a vasectomy usually takes about a week. During that time, you should avoid sexual activity and physical activities such as heavy lifting.

Benefits

  • Conventional vasectomy is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • This procedure eliminates your dependency on other forms of birth control, both male and female.
  • Vasectomy doesn’t change your testosterone production. It won’t reduce your sex drive or your ability to get an erection or to orgasm.

Risks

  • It takes between 8 and 12 weeks before a vasectomy starts to provide contraceptive protection.
  • Vasectomy is meant to be permanent. This procedure can often, but not always, be reversed. You shouldn’t get a vasectomy if you think you may want children at a later date.
  • You may experience bruising, swelling, and pain after the procedure.
  • In some cases, ongoing testicle pain may occur.
  • Like any other surgical procedure, vasectomy carries a risk of infection.
  • A hard, pea-size lump caused by sperm leakage may form. This lump is called a sperm granuloma. Sperm granulomas can be painful but usually dissolve on their own.
  • Sperm buildup in your testes may cause a feeling of pressure that lasts for weeks to months.
  • If you’re concerned about getting an STI, you’ll need to wear a condom during sex after having a vasectomy.

Cost

Many insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover the cost of vasectomy. Without insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $3,000 for this procedure.

No-scalpel vasectomy

Like conventional vasectomy, no-scalpel vasectomy is a permanent form of male birth control. It has the same success rate for preventing pregnancy. It’s also done as an outpatient procedure without general anesthesia.

  • If you have a no-scalpel vasectomy, your surgeon will numb your scrotum with a local anesthetic.
  • Instead of making incisions with a scalpel, they will use a sharp pointed forceps to make a small hole on each side of your scrotum.
  • The surgeon will use the forceps to pull the vas deferens out through each hole and cut it.
  • They will then seal the ends by tying or using heat.

Benefits

  • No-scalpel vasectomy provides the same benefits as a conventional vasectomy, including the ability to forgo birth control without worrying about pregnancy.
  • This procedure doesn’t change testosterone production. It won’t affect your sex drive or your ability to get an erection or to orgasm.
  • The procedure has more than a 99 percent success rate for achieving sterility.
  • No-scalpel vasectomy takes less time and has fewer side effects, such as infection and blood clots, than conventional vasectomy.
  • You’ll likely have minimal pain after this procedure.
  • Some studiesTrusted Source suggest that recovery time for a no-scalpel vasectomy may be shorter than it is for conventional vasectomy. You may be able to comfortably resume sexual activity sooner, although your doctor may recommend waiting at least a week.

Risks

  • It takes between 8 and 12 weeks for a no-scalpel vasectomy to provide contraceptive protection. Make sure to use a condom or another form of birth control to prevent pregnancy during this time.
  • No-scalpel vasectomies can sometimes, but not always, be reversed. It’s best not to have this procedure unless you’re sure you don’t want children.
  • You can expect bruising, swelling, and minor bleeding or oozing after the procedure.
  • Sperm granulomas may form and cause pain, but they typically resolve on their own.
  • You may experience pressure in your scrotum. This can last several weeks.
  • No-scalpel vasectomy won’t protect against STIs.

Cost

Many insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover the cost of vasectomy. Without insurance, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $3,000 for this procedure.

Finding male birth control

You can buy condoms at pharmacies and from online retailers.

Vasectomies are performed by specialists called urologists. You can find a urologist through the Urology Care Foundation.

If you have health insurance, talk with your doctor about the cost you can expect to pay for a vasectomy.

If you qualify for Medicaid, the cost of a vasectomy will be covered.

There are also low cost or free clinics, such as those run by Planned Parenthood, where you may be able to get a free or inexpensive vasectomy.

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