Male Contraceptive Pill: Scientists have found a cell pathway, or switch, that stops sperm from being able to swim. Tests in mice suggest it keeps sperm stunned for at least a few hours – long enough to stop them reaching the egg. The idea is users could pop a pill an hour before sex and keep an eye on the clock for when it wears off.
Male Contraceptive Pill: How does it work?
Unlike the female contraceptive pill, it does not involve any hormones. Scientists say that is one of the advantages of the approach they are exploring – it will not knock out testosterone and cause any male hormone deficiency side effects. Instead, the “sperm-swim” switch they are targeting is a cellular signalling protein called soluble adenylyl cyclase or sAC. The experimental male pill inhibits or blocks sAC.
In the early study in mice, funded by the US National Institutes of Health and published in the journal Nature Communications, a single dose of the drug, called TDI-11861, immobilised sperm before, during and after mating. The effect lasted for around three hours. By 24 hours, it appeared to have fully worn off with the next batch of sperm swimming normally.
Prof Allan Pacey, professor of andrology at the University of Sheffield, said: "There is a pressing need for an effective, reversible, oral contraceptive for men and although many different approaches have been tested over the years, none has yet reached the market.
When the female pill was mass produced in the early 1960s, for the first time women could control their fertility without their sexual partner’s involvement or knowledge. Today, more than 100 million women are currently on the pill, and it is the most common form of contraception in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. It is the second most popular in Africa, Latin America, and North America and the third most popular in Asia.
About 19% of women who are married or in relationships rely on sterilisation, 14% on the coil, 9% on the pill, and 5% on injections. Contraceptives that directly involve men are much less common; 8% rely on condoms and only 2% on vasectomy.