While women have more than 10 different choices of contraceptives, the options for men have historically been limited. However, as medical science advances, new breakthroughs in male contraception are almost certain to be made, giving couples greater opportunity to share the burden of birth control.

Vasectomy

A relatively quick and painless procedure, a vasectomy takes only 15 minutes to complete but provides men with a permanent contraceptive solution.

Under local anaesthetic, the tubes in the testicles that carry sperm to the penis are cut or sealed, either manually or by laser treatment, so that sperm cannot physically be released during sexual intercourse. It can take up to six months for the procedure to be fully effective but, for the man who does not want children in future, the procedure is highly effective.

However, while a vasectomy can theoretically be reversed with further medical intervention, success rates are not always high so couples who opt for this method of contraception should be certain that they do not want children in the future.

At present other methods of contraception for men are not yet fully developed although early research suggests that effectiveness rates will be high:
 

The male pill

The development of the female pill in the 1960s not only gave women a new choice of birth control but also helped to create a new era of female liberation.

An equivalent contraceptive for men, however, has remained elusive although recent medical advances have brought its introduction closer than ever before. By removing a specific protein from sperm that will prevent fertilisation of a woman’s egg, the male pill promises less side effects compared to the female equivalent and may only need to be taken once every three months.

It is also believed the male pill may be 100% effective. It only leaves the question: why isn't this available?
 

Temporary implants

Temporary implants are likely to be preferable to vasectomies as they will be less invasive and painful, while providing the same level of protection against unwanted pregnancy.

By blocking the production of sperm, an implant will act in a similar way to a vasectomy without being permanent, so couples will be able to use this method as part of long-term family planning rather than as a one-off solution.
 

Blocking injections

An alternative, reversible method of male contraception that is in development is the use of testosterone injections which will stop sperm production.

Although there will be an initial delay of approximately 10-14 days before the injections become fully effective, side effects are believed to be low and full sperm production will be regained six months after injections are ceased, giving couples the chance to try for a pregnancy at a suitable time.
 

A rebalancing of responsibility

As medical science continues to progress, men are likely to be offered a variety of realistic and effective contraceptive options which will mean they will be able to play a fuller part in family planning. While many women will welcome this, those whose own contraceptive options are limited, such as those unable to take the pill for medical reasons, will be pleased that finally the balance in responsibility for contraception is shifting.

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