NPR – Condoms have been used to prevent pregnancy since the Middle Ages, with the rubber version arriving in the industrial mid-1800s. Over the years, they’ve become more effective and comfortable to use.
But it was the invention of birth control pills, followed by IUDs in the 1960s, that created a seismic shift in humans’ ability to control reproduction.
A growing range of pills, patches and implants became available to women. And yet, a stretchy sheath that covers the penis remains the only medically approved form of contraception for men, short of vasectomy.
But now, researchers are looking into both hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptives for sperm bearers. The hope is that couples will begin to treat contraception more as a shared responsibility.
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“We would like to create a menu of options for men similar to what women have available to them,” says Stephanie Page, a researcher and endocrinologist at the University of Washington.
Hormonal methods get renewed research
Dr. Page’s lab is conducting a clinical trial along with researchers at 15 other sites across the globe, testing out a topical gel that a man applies to his shoulders every day.
The gel contains synthetic hormones – a combination of testosterone and progestin – that signal the brain to lower testosterone levels in the body.
And since testosterone is necessary for sperm to reach maturation, the testes then produce fewer and fewer sperm …