Male birth control pills discussed in forum

Academic research currently focuses on hormonal treatments and has a long way to go.

Devin Henry

Male contraceptives could someday leave the condom aisle and enter the pharmacy.

The University Pro-Choice Coalition held a forum Wednesday night discussing the future of male birth control pills.

Caitlin LaFlash, an art history senior and member of the coalition, said the goal of the meeting was to look at “leveling the playing field” in terms of pregnancy prevention.

“Our mission is to create education and awareness, especially about contraceptives, so that people can prevent unwanted pregnancy; and birth control is a specific part of it,” she said.

Art history senior and coalition member Kait Sergenian said she thinks male birth control could have an impact on the pregnancy rate.

“The outcome I would like is there is a safe and effective method for male birth control,” she said, “so both parties can equally take control of preventing pregnancy.”

Birth control pills for men are not currently available.

David Golden, director of public health and communication at Boynton Health Service, said he expected that men would opt to use birth control pills if the option were available.

“Would a certain percentage be interested in taking a birth control pill? I think some would be,” he said. “It seems to make sense to me.”

According to Boynton’s 2007 Health Survey, about 51 percent of respondents used female birth control pills, the most common method for pregnancy prevention in the survey.

In the works

While no forms of male birth control are available on the market, research is being done to find a form that would work for men.

Derek Hook, a University researcher at the Institute for Therapeutic Discovery and Development, is a member of a team researching male birth control options.

Most of the research around the country is aimed at hormonal treatments, he said.

But side effects such as changing body weights and shrinking testicles have slowed progress.

Hook said it takes a long time for drug research to progress, and that has hurt possible other forms of male birth control.

“Compounds based on male hormones have had kind of a head start in terms of research and development,” Hook said.

The University research team is focusing on certain hormones that could inhibit the movement of sperm, Hook said.

While a University Pro-Choice Coalition handout stated some forms of hormonal methods are within five years of hitting the market, Hook warns that the time frame could be longer.

A number of pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from researching male birth control, and the onus is now on academic research, Hook said.

“I think the whole research community in this area still has a way to go,” he said.

Dude, did you take your birth control?

According to Boynton’s Health Survey, 29.5 percent of unintentional pregnancies by Minnesota college students end in abortion.

LaFlash said even discussing the issues surrounding birth control are important in reducing that number.

“Contraceptives and sex education are a really vital role in lessoning unintended pregnancies and lessoning the abortion rate,” she said.

Clint Been, junior scientist at the University, said he would be interested in using male birth control, but would wait to see any possible side effects first.

“I think it’s natural for guys to feel squeamish,” he said. “I would welcome a method of birth control if it was safe and the side effects were minimal.”

Hook said taking a pill could be an attractive option for many men seeking contraception.

“I guess taking a pill sometimes is easier than using a condom,” he said.