How the Male Birth-control Pill Will Work

Condoms are one of the few birth-control options available to men today.
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The birth control pill celebrated its 50th birthday in 2010, prompting anniversary essays and opines lauding how the oral contraceptive revolutionized the sexual and maternal landscape for women. By 1978, birth control was freely prescribed to both married and unmarried women, and since then, those tablet packets have doubled as daily doses of independence. Today, the pill is the most popular form of birth control for American women under 30, providing reversible contraception for nearly 11 million women [source: Guttmacher Institute].

While the birth control family has grown over the years -- branching off with patches, rings, IUDs and other iterations, both hormonal and non-hormonal -- about half of all pregnancies in the United States are still unintended, indicating that female birth control isn’t a contraceptive panacea [source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]. And despite the wide-ranging birth control methods available on the market today, there’s still one option that's noticeably missing: male birth control. Pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers have investigated long-term, reversible forms of birth control designed for men, and all have fallen short.

Certainly, men aren’t completely at a loss for contraception; according to Planned Parenthood, they can choose from five non-medicinal options: abstinence, condoms, outercourse, vasectomy and withdrawal [source: Planned Parenthood]. Yet some men complain that none of those options allow them to fully enjoy sex, as condoms may reduce penile sensation, for instance, and vasectomies require an additional surgery to reverse.

Though it wouldn't eliminate the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, male birth control could provide an attractive contraception alternative for many reasons. For one, it would allow men and women to share contraception responsibility more equally. Additionally, it could alleviate women’s concerns over female birth control’s long-term impact on fertility. Since female birth control also tinkers with some women’s libidos, a male birth control option could offer a more stimulating form of contraception for both partners.

But how could a medication stop the 120 million sperm released during male orgasm from finding an egg?