Why 2017 could be the year of male birth control

As any woman who has been in a heterosexual relationship knows, birth control is almost always our responsibility, despite its benefits to all parties involved.

A quick Google search reveals that despite men typically being the wearers of condoms, women are often the ones to initiate and encourage condom usage. Fortunately, a new form of birth control known as Vasalgel is trying to lift the undue burden of birth control from women’s shoulders and distribute the weight more evenly to male partners.

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Vasalgel is “a long-acting, non-hormonal contraceptive” for men, but unlike more permanent forms of male birth control, such as a vasectomy, Vasalgel is reversible. The male birth control is a literal gel that is injected into a man’s vas deferens, the same place that is cut in a vasectomy.

Once injected, Vasalgel fills the vas deferens and acts as a wall to outgoing sperm. Research has found that sperm are too big to get through gaps in the vas deferens, which leads to the sperm being “reabsorbed” by the man’s body. Vasalgel still allows for ejaculation; it just subtracts sperm from the equation. If and when a man wants to get rid of Vasalgel, he can go in for a procedure that will remove the gel blockage.

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Clinical studies of Vasalgel on animals have proven highly effective, causing little change to the animals’ vas deferens and blocking sperm. This year, Vasalgel is expected to start its first human trial, which will last about six months. India is already slightly ahead of the curve with RISUG, a reversible male contraceptive that works similarly to Vasalgel, but is currently only available to men in India. Elaine Lissner, executive director of the Parsemus Foundation, the organization behind Vasalgel, predicts that by 2018, Vasalgel will be available to men in North America and Europe.

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Besides taking some of the responsibility off women sexually, Vasalgel also provides an alternative to women who don’t wish to use hormonal birth control. Many women forgo hormonal birth control because they’ve had adverse reactions to the hormones or because they don’t have access to hormonal contraceptives. Side effects of hormonal birth control can be incredibly debilitating, and lack of access and information regarding birth control leads to increased risk of accidental pregnancies. An increase in the number and availability of birth control options can begin to remedy this.

By Ariel Wodarcyk


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