Contraception questions

13May10

An article in the Times has claimed that men’s sperm can be ‘disabled’ for around 6 months by a harmless blast of ultrasound — and that investigations are continuing into the possibility of the treatment’s use as contraception. (via @MiriamOCal)

If preliminary results are confirmed, applying therapeutic ultrasound to the testes for ten to fifteen minutes could be provide protection for up to six months.

James Tsuruta, of the University of North Carolina, who led the research, said: “We think this could provide men with reliable, low-cost, non-hormonal contraception from a single round of treatment.”

Dr Tsuruta and colleagues have already proved the technique in rats, and plan to extend trials to humans as early as next year. Their findings so far suggest that sperm production can be halted temporarily without causing a longer-term reduction in fertility.

As a woman who’s unable to take hormonal contraception — it makes me so crazy that nobody would ever want to have sex with me in the first place — this is fantastic news, but it does raise some questions. Leaving aside the obvious issues of long-term effects, willingness of men to undergo the procedure, and reliablity… will women be happy to leave the burden of contraception in the hands of their partner?

With the pill’s 50th birthday just past, we women are used to having 100%  control over our capacity to conceive. Will anyone really be prepared to hand over that control to someone else? Of course, that’s what millions of men worldwide do when trusting their partners to take their pill on time and properly every single day… but. But. Well, they’re not the ones who’d get pregnant, are they?

I know that’s a horribly sexist thing to say, but it is at the back of every woman’s mind when it comes to controlling fertility. Not every man out there is a commitment-phobic louse who’d shove you on the ferry to England and/or run for the hills at the first patter of unplanned feet, but there’s always a possibilty that the woman is the one who’ll be left holding the baby. Literally.

And on the flipside, what about the fabled bunny boilers out to “trap” a guy with pregnancy? Or simply those who want a baby, but not the partner? Is it fair that men must rely on the good sense of a woman not to get pregnant against his will? It certainly is not.

There must be some sort of middle way here — some way that both men and women can feel secure in their contraceptive choices and know that they’re minimizing their risk (as much as is possible) of bringing a life into the world unexpectedly. I’ve posed more questions than I’ve answered here, when I suppose the only question is; would I be happy to use this as my sole means of contraception if it were available?

Since I’ve already had to give up my own safety net of hormonal contraception, I’d jump at the chance. But I doubt there’s too many women who’d be prepared to hand over the reins of their baby-making gear to someone else — no matter how much they trusted him.

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3 Responses to “Contraception questions”

  1. 1 Gav

    Interesting point. For what it’s worth, I don’t think contraception should be sole preserve of the female either though – I’d like to think that for every woman who has reservations about their fella taking the necessary precautions at his end, there’s a man who realises that it takes two to tango and that it’s not just the woman’s job to make sure her eggs don’t get fertilised.

    Just my tuppence. On my own initiative I split the price of the missus’s Pill and always have done.

  2. Oh, I agree. Just as we are now, there isn’t really an option contraception-wise that gives all the responsibilty to the man – even with condoms, the woman can clearly see if he’s wearing one or not. It’s always a shared responsiblity, or it should be I think… the ‘male pill’ removes that sharing, in a way. And I’m not sure many women will go for that.

  3. 3 Bridget

    Honestly, I wouldn’t trust anyone but myself to prevent pregnancy. It’s not a sexist thing, I just wouldn’t trust anyone but myself with something that important. It’s paranoid, but I’d rather be paranoid than pregnant!


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