A Pill a Day Keeps the Sperm Away
"An interesting question is the strength of motivation for men to use it, since men don't get pregnant," she says.
DePaolo says pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. still have not "bought into" the idea that men "are ready to be responsible for their fertility," whereas a couple of pharmaceutical companies in Europe appear to believe, and invest in the belief, that European men are more willing to use contraception.
In fact, a recent survey of men in Edinburgh, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Shanghai by Anderson and his colleagues found about 90% thought a male hormonal contraceptive was a good idea, and about 66% said if it was available now, they would be willing to use it in the near decade.
But would women believe the men really used it? DePaolo calls that issue the "trust factor," because with men, "how are you going to tell" if in fact the man has taken the contraceptive?
"If men do use it, it will have a freeing effect for many women who have biological or other reasons for not using some of the more common female contraceptives. On the other hand, many men may not want to father children outside of a conscious decision to do so. It may be most important for committed couples, where the man is willing to take this responsibility," Scrimshaw tells WebMD.
Contraception, whether male or female, does not alone constitute safe sex, which Scrimshaw concedes would probably be hurt "to some extent" by a male contraceptive.
DePaolo says, "one of the big areas in contraception in general is the development of spermicide-microbicide combinations to combat the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The steroid contraceptive pills aren't going to do that unless you wear a condom."
Many of these questions will inevitably be answered when some form of male contraception does reach the market. Will it cause a groundswell similar to the female pill? Probably not, with many researchers calling the male pill an evolution, not a revolution.
Scrimshaw agrees. "It will have an impact, but I doubt that it will have the same impact as the female pill," she says. "For one thing, many of the cultural, social, [and] sexual changes facilitated by the control over reproduction represented by the pill have already taken place. Also, in many cultures, it will not be easy for men to accept this method."