Why trials for the male birth control pill were halted and what limited options are available today for men

Why trials for the male birth control pill were halted and what limited options are available today for men
Vasectomies are highly effective - but they are extremely expensive to reverse. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images
  • Male birth control options are limited to using a condom or getting a vasectomy.
  • You can also pull out right before ejaculation, but this is unreliable and not recommended.
  • There is a male birth control pill under research, but trials were halted due to side effects.

If you're a man looking to take control of your sexual health and prevent getting someone pregnant, it's important to educate yourself and know your options - because the female partner shouldn't be the only one responsible for birth control.

As a man, you have fewer birth control options than women, at least where things stand today.

Here are a few male birth control options, how they work, and their pros and cons.

1. Condoms

Condoms are worn over an erect penis during sex to prevent pregnancy. They are usually made of latex, however, there are also polyurethane, polyisoprene, and lambskin non-latex condoms for those with latex allergies.

Condoms protect against pregnancy by serving as a barrier, physically blocking semen from being released into the vagina, says Jessica Yih, MD, a urologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.


In theory, condoms are 98% effective if you use them perfectly. However, with typical real-life use, condoms are only around 85% effective.

Pros of condoms

Yih says some benefits of condoms are:

  • They are widely available and easy to get.
  • They are a non-hormonal birth control option.
  • Along with preventing pregnancy, they can also help prevent transmission of STIs.

Cons of condoms

Yih says some disadvantages of condoms are:

  • There can be decreased sensation for both partners.
  • It can be awkward to ask to use a condom, and to pause to put one on.
  • If not used correctly every time, they are less effective overall.
  • Compared to prescription birth control, which most health insurance companies fully cover, condoms can be fairly expensive. For example, a pack of 12 on Amazon costs about $8.

2. Vasectomy

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting the vas deferens - the tubes that carry sperm. This stops sperm from making its way into semen, says Stanton Honig, MD, director of Men's Health at Yale Medicine Urology.

The procedure is done under local anesthesia and only takes about 20 minutes, Honig says. But it won't go into effect right away.


Even though new sperm won't be able to get into your semen, it takes time to clear out the lingering live sperm. Honing says this could take a few months, so it's important to get your semen tested before having sex without birth control.

A vasectomy is one of the most effective methods of birth control. It's almost 100% effective at preventing pregnancy and the chances it will fail are about one in 2,000.

Pros of vasectomies

Honig says some benefits of vasectomies are:

  • They are extremely effective.
  • The procedure is quick with minimal downtime.
  • It's a very safe procedure.
  • They are reversible.
  • It is usually covered by insurance (including Medicaid).

Cons of vasectomies

Honig says some disadvantages of vasectomies are:

  • If you don't wait to confirm that you're sperm-free, you can get someone pregnant post-procedure.
  • If you decide to reverse it, it can cost from $6,000-$25,000 and insurance may not cover the cost.
  • It doesn't protect against STIs.

3. Withdrawal method

The withdrawal method, also called the "pull out" method, works by physically withdrawing, or pulling out, your penis from the vagina prior to ejaculation, says Yih. In theory, this should stop semen from making it into the vagina, but it's hard to time perfectly.


If you are absolutely certain you don't want to cause a pregnancy, Honig does not recommend the pull-out method. "If you're using withdrawal, you're playing with fire," Honig says. It is only about 78% effective.

Pros of the withdrawal method

Honig says the main benefits of the withdrawal method is:

  • Personal preference if you don't like the feeling of condoms.

Cons of the withdrawal method

Yih says the disadvantages of the withdrawal method are:

  • There's a relatively low effectiveness and, therefore, higher risk of accidental pregnancy.
  • Pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) can contain sperm, so sperm may get in the vagina even if you are pulling out before you ejaculate.
  • It doesn't protect against STIs.

The male birth control pill

While some research has been conducted, there is no readily available FDA-approved male birth control pill.

Researchers have looked into pills that would block the production or function of sperm, or even cause dry ejaculations, says Honig.


For example, one type of pill currently under research works by regulating the hormones that stimulate sperm production including the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), says Yih. The goal is to stop or reduce sperm production.

However, the research we have now is inadequate to determine the efficacy and long-term safety of these pills. Moreover, short-term studies have identified some adverse side effects including acne, headaches, weight gain, and reduced sex drive.

"Some prior studies were stopped before due to side effects, which is controversial because many women have these side effects from female birth control pill," says Yih.

So, while there may be a male birth control pill in the future, there isn't one available now.

Insider's takeaway

The main birth control options for men are condoms, vasectomies, and the withdrawal method, with vasectomies being the most effective and withdrawal being the least effective.


For now, there is no male birth control pill. However, with ongoing research and innovations, more male birth control options may be available in the future.

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