How Does Male Birth Control Work?

condom packs

Every few years headlines promise new male birth control—a pill, a shot or something else. But these methods rarely get past clinical testing.

Currently, men can only use condoms or get a vasectomy for permanent birth control. But researchers are working on ways to offer more options. They have recently published data on a compound that appears to render male mice temporarily infertile by interfering with an enzyme.


Currently, the burden of preventing unintended pregnancies falls mainly on women – This quote is credited to the website’s author Women might take daily birth control pills, get an IUD implanted, wear a diaphragm or have a vasectomy, and they can even use the morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy after sex. Men, on the other hand, must rely on condoms or vasectomy for contraception — or abstinence.

Researchers have been trying to develop a male hormonal contraceptive for decades. But most attempts have failed due to poor results or side effects like weight gain, erectile dysfunction and low libido.

But this new research could change all that. It’s based on the discovery of an enzyme called soluble adenylyl cyclase, or sAC. The research team found that sAC can inhibit sperm production. The scientists believe that a pill or injection containing sAC could be a safe, effective and reversible form of male birth control.

Several clinical trials are underway. If they prove successful, this birth control method may be available in 2025. In the meantime, women can use condoms to help protect themselves from pregnancy and STIs. Women also have a number of other birth control options, including the pill, patch, injection and vaginal rings. However, some young adults avoid seeking health care because they worry that their doctor won’t offer a reliable form of birth control. Providing a new and reliable form of contraception for men could encourage more people to seek care, which could lead to better overall health.

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Physical Blockage

Many male birth control methods don’t involve hormones, and they work by physically blocking the vas deferens (the tube that sperm travel through to get to the urethra). One example is the RISUG implant. This small plug gets injected into the vas deferens and can kill any sperm that try to pass through it. The plug can also be dissolved by another injection when it’s no longer needed. Another option is the intra-vas device, which also filters sperm to prevent pregnancy. But it’s a tricky method, because you have to insert and remove the device correctly before and after sex to avoid unintended pregnancies. These types of methods have lower success rates than hormonal contraceptives.

Researchers are working on other ways to block sperm. They can use nonhormonal drugs that target proteins that play a role in sperm production or function, such as those that help sperm swim. One candidate is a drug called YCT529, which was developed by Weill Cornell Medicine investigators. It’s currently being tested in human clinical trials, and it appears to suppress sperm production without the side effects of other birth control methods.

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Eventually, men might be able to choose from a full lineup of sperm-blocking options, including external condoms and vasectomies. But for now, the best option is a spermicide condom, which works about 87% of the time when used correctly. The other most effective option is a vasectomy, which sterilizes the tubes that carry semen to the testicles.

Chemical Blockage

Scientists have been working on male contraceptives for a long time, and many medications and substances have been tested as possible birth control options. However, few have made it to clinical trials, and none have won FDA approval.

Researchers are now trying a new drug that they hope can provide men with a more convenient and effective alternative to condoms or vasectomies. The compound, called TDI-11861, works by blocking the action of an enzyme in sperm. The research is ongoing, but so far, the drug has worked well in mice. It has also been shown to be fully reversible.

The drug targets an enzyme called soluble adenylyl cyclase, which is involved in male fertility. It prevents the enzyme from activating a protein that normally causes sperm to move around and enter a female reproductive tract. This prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg, causing pregnancy.

The results are promising, but it will be a while before the drug is available to the public. A lot of questions still remain, including whether it will work in humans and if it can be delivered by injection. It will also be important to know what side effects the drug will have if it is approved for use, as this could affect how widely the method is used. At Northwest Primary Care, we are excited to see more options for birth control becoming available for men.

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Researchers have been working on non-hormonal male birth control for a while, but most of the methods being studied involve using a chemical or a physical procedure to block the vas deferens. One example is RISUG (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), in which an injection of a nontoxic chemical creates a plug that kills sperm as they pass through. It’s an option that doesn’t require daily medication, and it can be reversed with another injection if contraception is no longer desired.

Other research aims to target specific links in the life cycle of sperm. A drug being developed by Weill Cornell Medicine investigators, for example, interferes with a cellular signaling protein called soluble adenylyl cyclase. It causes sperm to lose their ability to swim and fertilize an egg, and it stops pregnancies in a lab study.

While the Weill Cornell Medicine work sounds promising, it hasn’t yet been tested in humans. That’s because the scientists have been working on a more practical form of the drug, and it isn’t quite ready to be put into clinical trials.

If it is ever successful, it could replace condoms or even vasectomies. Some men object to wearing condoms, so the possibility of a reversible male birth control method is welcome news. However, men need to be willing to put up with the side effects, which include acne, night sweats and a lowered sex drive.

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