- There are fewer reliable methods of contraception for men than there are for women.
- A team of scientists from the University of Edinburg conducted a systematic review of studies on men’s and women’s attitudes to male birth control.
- Both men and women want to see more male family planning options.
- Study participants see men’s contraceptives as another step towards gender equality.
- Men need a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health.
Do you know how many contraceptive methods there are for women? At least ten. And for men? Three. And if they want a reliable contraceptive that will preserve fertility?
In the realm of birth control, we are dealing with gender inequality in reverse.
Women have a range of methods to choose from, most of which are highly reliable. But what about men? Vasectomy is permanent, and withdrawal has a high failure rate. An average guy who wants to avoid becoming a father but keep his fertility options open has only one choice — condoms.
The media have suggested that pharmaceutical companies are not investing in novel male contraceptives because men would not be willing to accept potential side effects. Some added that women would not trust their partners with family planning responsibilities. But are these speculations accurate?
Extensive Analysis of Attitudes to Male Contraception
A team of scientists from the University of Edinburgh explored the attitudes towards male birth control. They conducted a systematic review of 35 studies. Their paper was published in the Journal of Sex Research in 2021.
The report provides a comprehensive mapping of qualitative and quantitative research. People who took part in the surveys and questionnaires were both men and women. One limitation was the diversity of research participants, with the majority being white Western and East Asian.
Some studies have been linked to actual clinical trials, while others considered hypothetical birth control options, from hormonal pills to gels and injections.
Would Men Use New Contraceptives?
Researchers identified a wide range of attitudes concerning the use of birth control methods among men. Many of the studies revealed that at least one third of respondents would use a novel method of family planning.
Among the testers of novel contraceptives, between 34 and 82 percent declared willingness to use the products. More men said they would give injections a try, possibly due to their ease of use (one shot every eight weeks), while more complicated methods (applying two different gels daily) were met with more reluctance.
When asked about the use of hypothetical male birth control, between 13 and 83 percent of respondents were open to trying. Scientists found out that the following factors affected decision-making:
- Side effects
- Cost of the drug
- A partner’s health
What Do Men Think About Contraception?
Some qualitative studies examined men’s beliefs and values surrounding the use of male family planning methods. Most considerations fell into two categories: user-focused and drug-focused.
- Men see birth control as a step towards more gender equality. Many study participants were determined to bring more equality into their relationships. They wanted to share the burden of contraception.
- Men worry if women would trust them. An interesting outcome of the interviews was that while men regarded themselves as trustworthy, they said that “men in general” may not be seen as such. This sentiment was reflected in the belief that women would be more likely to entrust their partners with contraception in the context of a long-term relationship.
- Men link birth control to masculinity. Studies revealed a variety of attitudes towards manhood. For some men, an idea of taking an injection made them feel more macho. Others admitted they would keep the fact of being on birth control secret for fear of appearing too feminine.
- Men are concerned about possible side effects. Male contraceptives, like any other medication, come with a possibility of side effects. Those may include mood swings, weight gain, and even mild erectile dysfunction. Some study participants were unwilling to accept any risks. Others were ready to live with mild health issues, especially if the method promised some benefits, for example, a higher sex drive.
Would Women Trust Men to Take Birth Control?
Out of the 35 studies analyzed, 15 included questions about women’s attitudes toward novel male contraceptives. Here is what the researchers found:
- Women want their partners to use family planning methods. Women’s acceptance of male contraception ranged from 43 to 97 percent. These results disprove the common myth that women would not trust men to be on birth control.
- Women want men to understand them better. According to qualitative studies, gender equality in a relationship is one of the key arguments for more male contraception. Some study participants added that the experience of using birth control would help men understand what women go through.
- Women don’t know if men can be trusted. Despite wide acceptance of novel male contraceptives, women who took part in the studies expressed uncertainty whether men would be diligent users of birth control. This might explain women’s preference for injectable methods for men. Having a shot once every few months makes it more reliable than remembering to take a pill every day.
Comprehensive Approach to Male Sexual Health
The desire for novel male contraceptives is not new; the earliest studies date back to 1970s. But birth control is only one piece of the puzzle. To have a happy and healthy sex life, men need education and access to sexual and reproductive health.
How eDrugstore Can Help
The best contraception will not be of any use if you don’t address your intimate problems, such as erectile dysfunction. What’s more, hormonal methods may protect you and your partner from an unplanned pregnancy, but you still need to avoid sexually transmitted infections and effectively treat them if you get one.
Sexual dysfunctions remain a concern for couples. If you’re struggling with sexual function issues, such as erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, or relationship and intimacy issues, eDrugstore can help. Check out our medication guide or follow the eDrugstore blog for more information about sexual health and other men’s health issues.
Anka Grzywacz is a sexologist, reproductive health expert and Certified Sex Coach™. In her online practice she helps busy women and couples solve their intimate problems.