Recent research has revealed the possibilities for the development of a male hormonal contraceptive, which could be both reliable as well as reversible within a few months of discontinuing treatment.
Contraceptive methods available to men at present are limited to condoms, vasectomy and withdrawal. These methods are often unacceptable to most couples being either unreliable or as in the case of vasectomy, almost irreversible.
Recent studies led by Dr. Peter Y. Liu, of the Department of Andrology at Concord Hospital and ANZAC Research Institute of the University of Sydney, in Australia have revealed important steps towards the development of methods which fit both the criteria of reliability as well as reversibility.
The results of the study have been published in the April 29 issue of The Lancet.
The androgen or androgen-progestin treatment combinations in men inhibit the production of sperms in ways, similar to the action of hormone therapy suppressing ovulation in women.
Male contraception studies involving androgen treatment and androgen-progestin combinations are presently being conducted in China and Europe. Researchers have used data from 30 studies on male hormonal contraceptives where sperm output was recorded every month until recovery.
The data has revealed that men who use androgen-progestin male contraceptive methods can all expect that their sperm output will return back to normal fertility levels. According to Liu 'This means that these hormonal methods are reversible.'
The study co-author Dr. Christina Wang, a professor of medicine at the General Clinical Research Center, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center mentioned the value of male contraceptives as a method of participation in family planning decisions.
Liu's team reviewed data on 1,549 men and found that the average time for sperm recovery was 3 to 4 months. Factors such as Asian origin, shorter treatment duration, older age and higher sperm concentrations at baseline were factors, which influenced higher rates of recovery. In spite of these factors however it was found that sperm production had recovered to fertility levels in all men.
Liu mentions that these male hormonal contraceptives will probably be given by injection or a subcutaneous implant. Wang also added that research is continuing into shorter-acting male hormone contraceptives that could be delivered by skin patch or pill.
Wang described the study as a roadmap for future studies of recovery with important safety information.