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A Male Birth Control 'Gel' Is in the Works, and Some Guys Are Freaked Out

Photograph by Twenty20

In 2018, we have phones that fit in our pockets and self-driving cars, yet we're still way behind in one major way: male birth control. For men, the three options to prevent pregnancy are condoms (which are not 100 percent effective), a vasectomy or celibacy. Luckily, scientists have been working to expand the limited options in this department, and now they're on the verge of running clinical trials for a brand-new birth control gel for men.

The gel contains progestin and when applied regularly, it can lower men's sperm count enough to prevent conception.

To use the gel, men simply have to rub it into their backs and shoulders, like lotion. Then, the progestin is absorbed through the skin and lowers their testosterone levels, inhibiting sperm production.

Researchers are planning to test the gel on 420 couples for a year to see if it's actually effective and what the side effects are. After that, "CBS News" medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula said in a recent interview that the gel will undergo additional testing, but it could be up to 10 years before it's approved for use. "For any product like this to move forward, it's going to have to be safe, effective and reversible," Narula said.

Male birth control, especially one that is noninvasive, would be a huge breakthrough. But people are skeptical.

On the CBS News Facebook page, the discussion took a decidedly negative turn.

Men worried about side effects, even though female birth control has its own side effects and they've expected women to take it for years.

"Prediction," one user wrote, "overuse causes cancer and low sperm count."

Birth control pills for women can increase the likelihood of blood clots, stroke, heart attack, low libido, weight gain, headaches and mental health problems, among other things. But in 2016, a different male birth control underwent clinical trials and they had to halt the trials because men were dropping out like crazy due to minor side effects like mood changes.

Others worried that men wouldn't be able to keep up the birth control routine. Cue day after day of women having to ask, "Did you put on your birth control gel today?"

"Like any woman would trust a man with that responsibility," another user wrote.

Narula told "CBS News" that male birth control has been delayed because it's "much harder to repress the production of hundreds of millions of sperm that are produced every day versus one to two eggs produced every month."

"Researchers are saying, 'Look, it's time for gender equity right now. We need to have more shared responsibility in family planning,'" Narula said. Let's hope she's right.

This post was originally published on Mom.me sister site CafeMom.