Study’s halt affects more than just men


Megan Bennett

By Editor-in-Chief

In an attempt to create male birth control, monogamous, heterosexual men from around the world ages 18 to 45 began participating in studies in September 2008 to see if a contraceptive shot could temporarily lower their sperm counts, according to a Nov. 1 CNN article. 

Despite a 96 percent success rate, according to the CNN article, the Oct. 27 study published by Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism and co-sponsored by the U.N. was cut short in 2011. Several men left the study close to that time after suffering from adverse side effects. The CNN article stated that more than 1,000 side effects were reported, including mood swings and depression, as well as acne and pain where the participants received the shot. 

These side effects were likely a contributing reason to an external review board recommending the study’s termination because other side effects, such as slowly regaining of sperm function, weren’t known for at least a year later. 

However, the researchers said almost 40 percent of these effects were unrelated to the testosterone-lowering shots, according to the article.

The side effects mentioned likely come as no surprise to women who rely on contraceptives for safe sex and other health needs—women who probably have no sympathy for men who quit. The study’s halt comes on the heels of a Sept. 28 Danish study from the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry that found a link between hormonal contraceptives and “mood disturbances” in women. The study also admitted that scientists have not properly addressed women’s issues with contraception side effects. 

According to a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 62 percent of American women—almost 38 million—ages 15–44 were using some kind of contraception between 2011 and 2013. Of the women using hormonal birth control, 16 percent used birth control pills, while 7.2 percent used methods such as intrauterine devices, and 4.4 percent used Depo-Provera shots. Condoms were also a commonly used contraceptive, but they are also proven to be less effective. 

Unfortunately, most women do not get to opt out of their birth control options like the men in the multi-year study. To receive the most effective pregnancy prevention, there is not another option.   

The halt of the male study means the responsibility of pregnancy prevention and safe sex will continue to fall primarily on the female, but also that health risks raise more red flags from researchers, doctors and users when they’re male health risks. In the meantime, women have been putting up with the same side effects since the creation of modern-day contraception, and the same courtesy has not been adequately extended.  

For several reasons, it is a shame that the men dropped out and the study may have been terminated solely because of adverse effects. 

Though it took some participants several months to recover fertility, and one person reported infertility four years after his last injection, according to the study—and that does require additional study—the process will unfortunately again slow the development of equity in contraception and male responsibility while women suffer without proper acknowledgment.  

In order to show equality and fairness, both male and female hormonal birth control should be reevaluated and revised to prevent health risks for either sex.