Love, Lindsay

I Asked 20 People How They Feel About The Male Birth Control Pill

Would you trust it enough to make it your sole contraceptive method?

Love, Lindsay Investigates, an offshoot of the Love, Lindsay column, is a series where A Plus's relationship guru / columnist ventures out into the world to ask people how they feel about a range of topics related to dating, relationships, and sex. Because, let's face it, everyone has an opinion when it comes to love. 

Hi, Love, Lindsay here. Like so many of you, I was recently made aware of an exciting development in the world of contraception: Researchers at the University of Washington Medical Center led by Dr. Stephanie Page recently developed a hormonal pill called dimethandrolone undecanoate, or DMAU, that effectively reduces testosterone levels and other sperm-producing hormones in men. 

That's right, it's a male birth control pill. 

While the pill is not on the market as it's still being tested, I wanted to learn how people feel about it, and if they'd actually rely on it as their sole birth control method, So, I decided to do some investigating.

I took to the streets of New York City to ask men and women of all ages and relationship statuses their thoughts.

Of course, a lot of people felt they needed more information on this new form of contraception, it's proven effectiveness, and side effects.  

So, here's the scoop: The research team tested three doses of DMAU — 100, 200 and 400mg — on 100 healthy men between the ages of 18 and 50 over the course of 28 days. Of the 100 test subjects, 83 successfully completed the study, with no "serious" side effects. The pill does have to be taken with food, and a few participants experienced minor side effects, like decreased libido and weight gain.

Ultimately, the study documented lower testosterone levels in participants, which the researchers noted has previously been shown to reduce sperm count to "castrate levels," meaning it's comparable to the range of testosterone in the blood after chemical or surgical castration. According to a statement from Dr. Page, the next step for the pill will be a longer trial to see if it is actually effective at reducing sperm count. 

This isn't the first time medical researchers have pursued birth control options for men. In 2015, Vasalgel, a reversible birth control injection for men, first came onto the scene. In the years since, testing has been successful on making male rabbits "azoospermic" (meaning able to create sperm-less semen) for an entire year after injection. Elaine Lissner, executive director of the Parsemus Foundation that developed the contraceptive, says she expects Vasalgel to be available to all men in 2018.

A year later, a study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that a male contraceptive injection could have a 96 percent success rate (comparatively, the pill is 99.9 percent effective). The researchers studied 320 men between 18 and 45 years old, until 20 men dropped out of the study after experiencing negative side effects like mood changes. 

Sound familiar, ladies? It should be noted that female birth control has always come with side effects, some of which are positive— such as regulating menstruation and lowering period pain — and are the reason many women take the pill. Others, however, such as mood changes and, oh yeah, a correlation to clinical depression are considered necessary sacrifices for peace of mind. 

Of these past and ongoing male birth control pursuits, the male contraceptive pill most closely resembles "the pill" that first became legal to use for purely contraceptive purposes in 1960. Yup, it's taken that long for medicine to come up with a male equivalent. Because of this latest prototype's side effects, some men may be wary to try it. (Despite women dealing with these side effects for decades.)

On the flip side, women may be wary of trusting men to take that daily duty seriously since they're not the ones who will bear the burden of a pregnancy, should a mistake occur. 

With all these things to consider, I've listed the range of opinions from 19 real people on their feelings on the pill. Some were interviewed on the streets of New York (in the video above), while others were strangers, friends or colleagues who emailed me their thoughts. 

1.

"I would probably use it. I would be interested in it obviously because safe sex is of utmost importance. I would feel more comfortable having control over using birth control myself, and it's looking like the new male contraceptive pill has barely any downsides compared with the plethora of health risks that women face taking their own contraceptive pills. I only say probably now so I could do some more research and discuss it with my own doctor. In my current relationship... she doesn't have any healthy negatives so maybe we could take it concurrently. If I was in a relationship where there were a lot of health negatives for my partner, I would definitely try to get them off of it." - Dennis, 25, in a relationship

2.

"If my boyfriend did say that he wanted to take birth control, I would still take it just because it's my body and even if I may completely trust him and he's taking it I won't get pregnant, but just in case, if something goes wrong, I'd rather be completely guaranteed that I'm not gonna get pregnant, just for, like, for myself." - Palluvi, 18, single

3.

"No I would not. I don't really like pills in the first place. I don't like to take pills for anything so as much as a birth control pill and something that is new, I definitely wouldn't be down for trying it out. I mean, not even if it's proven. Not even if it's, like, proven and everyone is using it regularly as a birth control, I still wouldn't be OK with it." - Trevon, 29, in a relationship

4.

"I would have to say I would keep using my birth control. It would be cool that a guy was taking initiative like that, but I've spent my entire life being responsible (not actually that responsible, cause I suck lol), but being told I was the one that was supposed to be responsible for all things birth control, my body, etc. that I don't think I could trust a dude to do it/do it right." - Stephanie, 24, in a relationship

5.

"There should, basically, be opportunity for both men and also women to have access to birth control. I think that's fair, and I think that eventually we would've come to that anyway — that both parties would have the ability to use birth control. But as far as: would I stop taking my pill? ... I think that if I were to fall in love and have a sexual commitment and relationship with a man, I would trust him enough to stop taking the pill, if he insisted upon using birth control. I would trust, you know, if there's not the trust there then I certainly wouldn't. You have to have the trust there." - Inez, 75 (hasn't needed birth control in 25 years), single 

6.

"Uhhhhhhhhh I would need assurances that [the male contraceptive pill] works — like, actually works — and there are no serious side effects. I still believe condoms are the best because it's really hard to fuck that up (it physically blocks the sperm) and... [I] can't afford a kid. It also depends on my partner. I don't think I'd start taking it right off the jump since I feel condoms are cheaper." - Dom, 24, single 

7.

"Nope. I just ... I guess I don't know. In theory, if I was with a partner that I trusted, but that is a part of being a sexually active female is taking birth control. It has not always been a part of being a sexually active male, and there's a learning curve there so I would just ... Plus, I have an IUD, so I don't do anything with that anyway so I wouldn't change that, I would just keep it. I mean, sure, double the protection, absolutely, but no, I'm not gonna trust — because he can say that, you know what I mean? Trust issues with dudes in general, they can be like, 'Yeah, totally, there's not a hole in this condom,' but no, I don't want a baby, so I'm gonna be in charge of that." - Casey, 35, single 

8.

"No ... depends, but no. I just don't think messing with your genes, your DNA with medicine to have sex. [It] doesn't make sense to me." - Joseph, 24, single

9.

 "I don't think I personally would [stop taking my own birth control] simply because you can never be too safe. I think even if you're taking a birth control pill as a woman, you should still use condoms, so to rely on another person I think as men typically rely on women wouldn't be fair to that person so I would say just be safe. Take your own stuff, but I mean it would be a good option to not be the only one in the relationship who's taking it." - Kimberely, 19, single

10.

"I don't think I would take it. For one, I would be hesitant to try any new drug on the market. Although it says there are no immediate serious side effects, it still hasn't been proven that there are [not] any long-term effects (impotency, becoming more prone to certain types of cancer, etc.). Also, I would still use a condom if I wasn't in a serious relationship anyway to protect from STDs so that would kind of defeat the purpose of the drug in that case. If the drug had been tested to be safe to use over a long period of time, and if I was younger, then it would be a different story and I would most likely be in the market for something like this." - Allen, 31, single 

11.

"I think stats are really important. Maybe if, like, it's really effective then yes, I would trust it enough. But ... I think, either way though, I would definitely continue to be taking birth control throughout that process, just to be safe." - Isabelle, 18, single

12.

"Honestly, I'm not sure I would. From what I understand it's only been tested for short-term use, and I'm hesitant to take any medication that isn't tried and true. Rolling the dice on something that might stop me from having kids or give me heart disease is pretty scary, especially when I could just wear a condom. I think if I were to take it, I'd let my partner choose whether she wanted to continue her own birth control. News of this pill existing is a reminder of the kinds of stress and decisions and risks women make all the time, stuff I definitely wouldn't sign up for, so I'm not about to tell a partner whether she should take birth control if I already am." - Isaac, 25, in a relationship 

13.

"Personally no, just because I just prefer being safe on my side because in my past experience I know men have been just a little forgetful, even on the simplest things so, just for me, I'm very cautious, so I would definitely just keep taking my birth control for sure." - Joyce, 22, single

14.

"Actually I'm not sure because, maybe, the side effects. We don't know yet. So I don't know. .. because I've been to medical school also and a lot of birth control pills have side effects that we don't know, we just find out after 10 years so ... I'm not sure about it." - Jed, 34, single

15.

"Personally I would not [stop taking my own birth control] because it's a newer form of birth control, and I think the more birth control, the better." - Jessica, 18, in a relationship 

16.

"So I had dangerous side effects from being on the pill. I would have [liked] an option for him to take [it]. With casual dating, I'd never trust someone who says he's consistently taking oral birth control and I'd only rely on condoms (which I keep handy). However if I were in a relationship, it would be wonderful to not always be the one responsible for my own pregnancy prevention. It would be a welcome change, and I'd be grateful that a partner cared about my health and well-being." - Aviva, 47, divorced and dating

17.

"I think it would be a matter of trusting him. If he would be diligent enough to take it on his own, if I knew that he was committed to it and was taking it as he should, then I would [stop taking my own birth control]." -  Daniella, 26, single 

18.

"Yeah, after testing. I wouldn't want to jump on it first, but yeah, nothing against it ... It's probably the classic thing, you still don't want to be first, in case there are other [side effects besides weight gain and decreased libido] but yeah, that wouldn't bother me." - Liam, 27, in a relationship 

19.

"Since I have an IUD [intrauterine device], I don't think I'd take the step to remove it because of my partner. Plus, I like the security of knowing what I have going on with my body. But I would think it was cool, and a nice extra layer of protection if a guy were to also use a birth control method!" - Jackie, 25, single

20.

"Yeah, I would try it. i would want to make sure that it was held to the same standard of safety as current female birth control. But assuming it was proved to have no long term negative effects, and that the side effects were minimal, I would definitely take it. Seems easier than an IUD or other invasive birth control, and it makes me sense for the person responsible for impregnating to take the pill to stop it." - Ben, 26, married

A Plus has reached out to Dr. Stephanie Page for comment.

Cover image via Becca Tapert on Unsplash 

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