Birth control milestone: Can men be trusted to take the pill?
For decades, sexually active men have had limited options to control their fertility.
One of them is vasectomy then there is the use of condoms, the debatable “pullout” method and well, abstinence. For women, there’s a long list of them.
With the few options available that would possibly mean a quicker decision-making process. However, many men say that these choices are far from what they consider to be ideal.
You have probably heard them say that condoms are cumbersome or share unfounded fears about vasectomy. There is a quarter that believes that vasectomy will affect their sexual performance, another cling to the belief that it permanently damages their sexual organs, and yet another that links the process to cancer.
A hormonal birth control pill could probably do the magic, right?
When there is a new family planning method for women, there is not much hullabaloo around it and some women actually get to learn about them when they visit their gynaecologists. For men, however, such a discovery is a big deal. Like the case a week ago.
A team of scientists said that they had developed an oral male contraceptive that is 99 percent effective in mice without causing side effects. As such, it could enter human trials by the end of this year. The findings of this research will be presented at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting and could signify a milestone toward expanding birth control options for men and making birth control a shared responsibility.
According to a UN study in 2015, 19 percent of married women or in relationships rely on sterilisation, 14 percent on the coil, nine percent on the pill, and only five percent on injections. When it comes to men, eight percent rely on condoms and only two percent go for vasectomy.
Marcus Mwangi, a man in his early thirties and a father of one smiles at the possibility of this actually happening. “My wife has had very bad effects from the use of family planning methods and if this can ease her pain, I’d gladly take it,” he says.
To which I respond by asking why he had not considered the already available options. He shrugs. Then says, “I don’t trust those.”
The female pill was mass-produced in the 1960s, just a decade after its invention and since then, there have been attempts to find a suitable contraceptive for men. This is not the first time that such developments have been made public and signified hope for women who are burdened by the effects of female contraceptives and those advocating for the relaxation of gender roles. However, no past clinical trials have been ready for use by men.
Some online reports by scientists claim that it is more complicated to develop male contraceptives compared to female ones. Also, for many years, medicine and reproductive science have largely focused on women.
When the news of this breakthrough broke, the internet went frenzy. There were those embracing the idea with others swearing that they could never get themselves to taking the pills.
Maurice Matheka, a sexologist criticised the way the discovery was presented to the world and to men. “I have seen many men reacting negatively towards it and when you listen to them, you get to understand their fears and where they are coming from. They don’t know the fine details of this research and it feels like an attack on their penises and manhood, altogether. So, they are asking, “for how long should I take it?” or “will it weaken my semen?” or “will it affect my performance in bed?” what many women need to understand is that men don’t go around sleeping with women to make them pregnant. As such, they want to be presented with the advantages as to why they should take the pills,” he says.
While the embrace and uptake of the hormonal pills by men once ready for use remains to be seen, the pertinent question is whether their partners can trust them with the responsibility.
Agnes Ngungi, an accountant based in Nairobi worries that the partner will forget. “Because of the very nature of women are the ones who gets pregnant, it might skip his mind that he needs to stop that by taking the pills. I am foreseeing a future of oops-babies because of this,” she says.
Jacinta Moraa, a writer and unmarried is totally against the use of hormonal pills by men. “I think it would give them a leeway to sleep around without the fear of getting someone pregnant. Also, it will make more women susceptible to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” she offers.
“If I can monitor the uptake of the pill, like a mother does with her children, then I would be open to him taking the pills. My biggest worry is that he might forget,” says Ann Kathambi, a Meru resident.