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Hormonal Birth Control: A Male Option?

Researchers Say Hormonal Contraception Is Reversible in Men

Return of Fertility

The newly reported research involved a review of the raw data from 30 studies of male contraceptives published between 1990 and 2005. In all of the studies, sperm output was monitored every month after discontinuation of contraceptioncontraception until sperm recovery.

A threshold of at least 20 million sperm per milliliter of semen is a widely accepted indicator of fertility.

Data were available for close to 1,500 men. The average time for sperm recovery to 20 million/mL was three to four months. Older age, Asian race, shorter length of treatment, and higher sperm concentrations prior to treatment were all associated with faster recovery.

Using probability calculations, Liu and colleagues estimated that 67% of men using hormonal contraception can expect to be fertile again within six months of discontinuing treatment, while 90% will regain their fertility within a year, and 100% will return to normal fertility within two years.

The study is published in the April 29 issue of the journal The Lancet.

"The findings should reassure men that this really is a reversible process," Blithe tells WebMD.

Other Options

In addition to the implant-shot combination, investigators are also examining biodegradable testosterone pellets and gel delivery methods for hormonal birth controlbirth control in men. And the search for new and viable nonhormonal male contraception continues.

"These methods aren't going to replace the pill, but many women can't take the pill for whatever reason, and there are a lot of couples out there that would love an alternative to condoms and vasectomies for male contraception," Blithe says.

Liu says there is nothing revolutionary about men taking the lead in birth control.

"Family planning has been a shared responsibility throughout history. It is only within the last forty years or so that it has really shifted to women."

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