The continuing developments in male contraception have created a debate around whose responsibility it is to take such medication. Is it an expectation that women take pills or other similar contraception? Particularly if they want to have unprotected sex with a man? Should it be a shared responsibility? Francesca Stenning discusses.
The introduction of female contraception in the 1960s saw the following decade have greater sexual freedom. This may have been because the risk of pregnancy was greatly removed; a burden which, unfortunately, often fell on the shoulders of women.
In the UK, many different types of female contraception are accessible, from the pill (oral contraception) to the coil (a semi-permanent implant). This availability brings into light the lack of available options for men. The responsibility therefore falls onto women because there is not equal access.
No medical male contraceptive pill is available via the NHS as the side effects have been deemed too great
Nevertheless, times are changing and modern science is starting to develop and trial medical contraceptives for men. Sadly, no medical male contraceptive pill is available via the NHS as the side effects have been deemed too great. Using condoms or having a vasectomy are the only two choices at the moment. Pills and gels are in the process of being tested.
Does the hesitation to pass these drugs for men reinforce ideas that women are wholly responsible for preventing pregnancy?
The reasons that some trialled pills have failed are largely due to their side effects. However, these are similar to those that women face, such as acne, weight gain, mood swings and a change in libido. These side effects are well-known for female contraceptives, with the pill also including the risk of blood clots. Does the hesitation to pass these drugs for men reinforce ideas that women are wholly responsible for preventing pregnancy?
Another reason for the lack of availability is due to the difficulty in creating a pill that is successful. Hormonal medication for women prevents the release of a singular egg by releasing a combination of hormones, usually including progesterone. Male contraception needs to prevent the release of sperm or reduce their capabilities. This is proving much harder to prevent. Even vasectomies are not 100% effective in preventing the release of sperm. Therefore, it may not be hesitation in the medical world, but merely a lack of scientific capability that is preventing a range of male contraceptives from being available.
Unfortunately, the responsibility for taking contraceptives if partaking in unprotected sex still currently lies on women in the UK as a man’s only option is to have a vasectomy. However, as medicine continues to advance, the likelihood of male contraception being created and passed as safe for use in the UK is high. Once it is accessible, this responsibility can be shared.
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