My Contraceptive Pill Experience.
For many years, I took a pill every morning to prevent pregnancy. It took some time to find the right one for me. By that, I mean I had to find the type with the least objectionable side-effects.
In my quest for a suitable pill, I had some god-awful symptoms. Things like prolonged bleeding, which meant my usual period went for two weeks and happened every second fortnight. You can fucking keep that one. I’ve experienced ridiculous mood swings, anxiety, headaches, sore boobs, weight gain and, surprisingly, decreased interest in sex. Who’d have thought that feeling moody, anxious, sore and fat while bleeding like someone in a slasher movie would leave you less inclined to get busy between the sheets?
The Male Contraceptive.
So when I first heard talk of a male contraceptive injection, I felt relieved. Finally, it wouldn’t be my responsibility anymore. We could negotiate this. Take alternate years. Share the load. Give my body a break from the barrage of side effects it’s been subjected to for 20 years, give or take. Fucking sweet. The trial looked pretty damn promising too, with a 96% effectiveness rating. This is almost as effective as the female contraceptive pill and more effective than condoms. Hooray! A viable alternative on the horizon! But- the trial had to be stopped.
Why Did They Stop the Trial?
Make sure you’re sitting down when you read this.
The trial was stopped because of the negative side effects. Those side effects were mainly (wait for it) changes to libido, acne, injection site pain and mood swings. Sound familiar? Essentially, participating men got to experience a sample of what women on the pill have been experiencing since it became available in 1962. It would seem that the trial wasn’t stopped by the participants themselves (though reports are conflicting- some articles state 20 men experienced side effects, others that many more experienced side effects but 20 dropped out) but by an independent committee established at the start of the trial. This committee found this level of risk unacceptable for the men involved.
Just recently, new research linked the oral contraceptive to higher rates of depression in women, not that anyone seems overly concerned with that. The other side effects have been well known for many, many years. And yet, doctors still routinely recommend and prescribe the pill to women. We are expected to put our comfort, health and mental well being on the line to prevent pregnancy. If you think I’m being a little dramatic, remember that the pill can have some serious and dangerous side effects in some women. Earlier this year, a fit and healthy 23 year old woman died from a blood clot and the contraceptive pill was reported to be her only risk factor. That is just one example.
If you are unlucky enough to experience a serious side-effect of the pill, it could seriously impact your health or even cost you your life. When it comes to preventing pregnancy, women are expected to live with a degree of risk and unpleasant side-effects but apparently, it’s not reasonable to expect the same of men.
Contraception: Men vs. Women.
Male contraceptive options are limited. There are condoms, right? Condoms are pretty good and they don’t wreak havoc with anyone’s health (provided there are no latex allergies involved!). Used correctly, condoms can be 98-99% effective. However, it’s the “used correctly” part that lets us down. If you check out this list of the 14 common condom errors, you’ll see that improper use of condoms drops their effectiveness rate considerably. Otherwise, there is permanent contraception available to men in the form of a vasectomy which isn’t always going to be an appropriate option. As far as men go, that’s about it. And yet, men are fertile 365 days a year, whereas women have a window of around 5-6 days per month.
Women can take pills, mini-pills or have bits of copper or hormone-laced plastic rings put into their uterus. They can have a diaphragm, injections, implants, the female condom, the vaginal ring and emergency contraception in the form of the morning after pill. I know it’s women that are the ones that become physically pregnant, but the last time I checked, they aren’t often doing that all by themselves. Men, especially those in relationships, should be able to share the contraceptive burden.
Male Contraceptive Demand.
To sum it up, the burden of preventing pregnancy almost always falls to women, even though hormonal contraceptives can be a risk to their health and mental wellness. More than five decades later, a product has been developed for men. The potential side effects identified in it’s trial were initially reported as fewer and seemingly less serious than some experienced by women. Nevertheless, the trial was halted as these side effects were not deemed acceptable for men. A male contraceptive product like this may never eventuate because there’s apparently no real demand for it.
A co-author of the study on the male contraceptive, Professor Robert McLachlan, says it’s a “niche market” to pharma companies. He says there simply isn’t a huge demand for male contraceptive products. I think he’s right. It’s been over 50 years since the pill for women became available, with no real progress on a similar option for men until now. For me, this is just another example of contraception being linked to mood swings in women. If you can’t see why that might be, think about the mood you were in before you read about this and compare it to how you feel now.