Where are the contraceptive options for males? It’s Not Just a ‘Women’s Issue’

By Kate McNair, RN, BSN, SANE

The sexual revolution began in 1960 with the emergence of a novel birth control for women in the form of a pill. Despite the increase in contraceptive options for women over the past 55 years (including many new long acting and reversible options), options for males have remained stagnant and have not progressed beyond the condom.

Although there have been attempts to create hormonal birth control for males, barriers persist. A recent study tested an inject-able male hormonal contraceptive (testosterone and progestin) with 266 male participants across 10 sites (Behre et al., 2016). These injections attempt to interrupt the normal hormonal cycle and decrease sperm count, rendering the male reversibly infertile (Ashbrook, 2016). The efficacy was 96%, a rate higher than OCPs(Oral Contraceptive Pills) for women (Ashbrook, 2016; Behre et al., 2016). Unfortunately, although the results were encouraging, the trial was abruptly halted last November due to reported side effects. Males reported acne, mood swings, and pain at injection site (Behre et al., 2016). Males also reported increased libido (Behre et al., 2016). Rationale for the discontinuation of the study has not been reported by the review board at the World Health Organization.

The reported side effects experienced by the males in the Behre et al. (2016) study mirror contraceptive side effects experienced by females. This further supports persisting patterns of cultural patriarchy in today’s science and reinforces cultural messages to the public that family planning and contraception is fundamentally a responsibility and burden placed solely on the female. While science may never occur without cultural bias, as personal beliefs and viewpoints tend to permeate our work (consciously or not), women’s health nurses can lend their support and voice to promote efforts to eradicate the androcentric bias in today’s contraceptive research.
As I become a nurse scientist, I am emboldened and hopeful, not deterred. I see opportunity for change in science, influenced by leaders in the nursing field. We must make a point to understand underlying biases in science and encourage nurses to have their voices heard. Only then can nurses advocate fully for the women they serve. Contraception is not just a women’s responsibility or burden, and we can change this paradigm starting now.

Ashbrook, T. (2016, November 4). Fresh controversy in male birth control. On Point.
Podcast retrieved from http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2016/11/04/male-birth-control
Behre, H., Zitzmann, M., Anderson, R., Handelsman, D., Lestari, S., McLachlan, R. &
Colvard, D. (2016). Efficacy and safety of an injectable combination hormonal
contraceptive for men. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Retrieved from http://press.endocrine.org/doi/pdf/10.1210/jc.2016-2141

IMG_4306Kate McNair is a women’s health nurse practitioner & PhD student at Boston College. She also maintains clinical practice as an OB/GYN RN at a community health center in Roxbury, MA. Follow her on Twitter @fem_nurse.