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UW Medicine is testing a new male contraceptive that men will want to use

(Photo by Jesper Aggergaard on Unsplash)

The UW School of Medicine is about to roll out its first clinical trial for a male contraceptive they have been working on for a decade. Professor of medicine, and co-leader of the trial, Dr. William Bremner, says it’s a gel contraceptive that a man would rub into both of his shoulders every day.

“We’re using testosterone in combination with another compound to turn off the pituitary gland’s hormones that stimulate the testes and that makes the testes not put out sperm,” said Dr. Bremner. “So the net result is you’re getting a normal testosterone level, a normal male hormone level, but they don’t put out sperm in their ejaculate. They put out a normal volume of ejaculate, their partners won’t know any difference in that regard. But there’s no little swimming sperm cells in the ejaculate.”

After two or three months the body should stop producing sperm and when a man stops using the gel, his sperm will return a few months later. Dr. Bremner says there’s a common misconception that men aren’t interested in controlling their own fertility.

“That is a common perception which we don’t find to be true. We have no problem getting men to participate in the studies. There have been a large number of surveys that have went around the world in different cultures and religions. About 75 percent or so across the world say that they’re willing to use a male contraceptive technique if it’s effective, safe and reasonably cheap. It’s a surprise to many people that about a third of all contraception in the United States is done by male methods already. About 15 percent of all contraception is done by condoms and the other 15 percent by vasectomy.”

In the small studies the UW has done so far, there doesn’t appear to be any major side effects. A lot of women don’t like hormonal birth control because it affects their mood and emotions. But the only side effects Dr. Bremner has seen so far is slight weight gain, muscle gain not fat, and acne, but only in men who had breakouts in their teen years.

He says this would be the first new male contraceptive in about 200 years and the more options we have, the better.

“Turns out that about half of pregnancies are unplanned and about a quarter are actually unwanted. You know, there are only three methods available for man. Either a vasectomy, which is permanent, and a condom which isn’t terribly acceptable to some men and couples [and the pull-out method]. So there really aren’t terrific new methods available for men to prevent the huge, huge international number of unwanted pregnancies.”

This first study will involve 400 couples in the US, Africa, Europe and South America. If you’d like to be a part of the study, they’re looking for people here to participate. Men must be between 18-50 and 18-35 for women.

“They have to be a couple who are presuming to remain monogamous over the year and a half of the study. It’s really a couple’s study.”

If you’re interested in participating, call Dr. Bremner’s trial partner Kathy Winter at 206-616-0484 or email [email protected]

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