“Have you got a condom?” “Are you on the pill?”
They’re awkward, passion-killing questions, undoubtedly. Perhaps even more awkward than the act of bumping uglies itself, which is why they’re often bypassed en route to some panic-stricken regret the morning after.
According to new research, men will soon be able to reduce the level of awkwardness with a highly effective male contraceptive jab.
The hormone-based jab includes both progestogen and testosterone, acting on the pituitary gland to “switch off” sperm production (honestly, they should just make these things with an actual switch – would save us all a lot of bother).
The year-long study included around 270 men in long-term relationship, injecting them every two months and reducing sperm count to one million per millilitre or fewer.
That might still sound like an awful lot of sperm, but the jab was found to be almost 96 per cent effective, with only four pregnancies occurring in the partners of test subjects – putting it on equal pegging to the female pill, and a darn sight better than the condom’s measly 82 per cent success rate.
It’s not all good news though: the jab also had major side effects, forcing around 20 men to drop out. Side effects included increased libido (sexy), acne and depression (not so sexy).
Scientists stopped enrolling new recruits into the study due to the rate of these side effects – and the trial was ultimately stopped as a result. There were 1,491 reported cases of side effects, though 39% of those cases were found to be unrelated to the treatment. After the study had finished, three quarters of the men tested said they'd be willing to continue with the male jab.
Experts think the side effects can be stopped by changing the dosage or way the hormones are delivered. Though a pill version of this method would be difficult, due to the liver metabolizing the hormones, scientists will trial a new method that could be rubbed into the chest each morning (an amusing addition to your grooming routine, to say the least).
This follows news that researchers at the University of Wolverhampton have been working on a male contraceptive that could be taken as a pill – or even as a nasal spray – with effects that lasts for a few days. This alternative version is a compound that reduces the sperm's ability to move – rendering even your best swimmers absolutely useless within just minutes. Current plans for this version would see the male pill available by 2021.
Whichever male contraceptive succeeds, it can only mean one thing in the near future: bad news for sperm, good news for men.