Heating ring or slip: beware of male contraceptive methods of questionable effectiveness

Can contraception also be a male affair? More and more men are interested in the idea, but the reality for now consists largely of methods of questionable effectiveness, such as heated rings or briefs, and big announcements with no future.

“There is a demand for”, summarizes endocrinologist Régine Sitruk-Ware. Front only “there are few ongoing clinical trials”† On Monday 23 May, the researcher and colleagues from different countries organized a conference in Paris on contraception for men, a theme that has resonated in the media for years.

For men, the idea is to use a method similar to the female pill to ensure that their partner does not become pregnant and thus does not place the sole responsibility for contraception on her.

These possible methods would make it possible to go beyond the condom, which must be used with every intercourse, and the vasectomy, which is often irreversible and therefore amounts to giving up fertility for good.

But does this alternative exist? No, despite the growing media attention for so-called thermal methods, such as: “heated briefs” True “the contraceptive ring”. The principle ? Bring the testicles closer to the body to keep them warmer and thus limit the production of spermatozoa. This requires a temperature slightly lower than that of the rest of the human body.

Ability to regain fertility

In France, these methods are promoted by militant associations that offer to make them by hand, or sold by start-ups, such as the ring “Andro Switch” – until recently – or the boxer “sperm break”

But their effectiveness and safety have not been scientifically substantiated. Only a few, certainly encouraging, studies have been conducted in the 1990s on heated briefs, but on too small a sample, a few dozen people, to be conclusive.

The French health authorities have also banned the sale of“Andro Switch”, which require it to be based on a proper clinical trial. The designers regretted that the “ignore settings and denigrate this method”comparing this ban to the history of restrictions against abortion or contraception for women.

“International colleagues working in the field of contraception do not think these methods are very practical or valid for the future.”

Regine Sitruk-Ware

The researcher points out that the doubts relate not only to the effectiveness, but also to the possibility of regaining fertility after using these methods. She insists on one point: If a man wants to experiment with a new form of birth control, he should only do so as part of a clinical trial followed by doctors.

But the latter are few in number and here again the reality of the research hardly corresponds to the media picture given by repeated major announcements.

A freeze on absent subscribers

For example, in 2019, Indian researchers announced positive results with a male contraceptive called “Risug”, a gel that is supposed to reproduce the effect of a vasectomy, but in a reversible way. According to them, the availability was only a matter of a few months, the time to get it approved by the local health authorities.

However, other researchers felt that these studies were far from sufficient. Three years later, no news. When asked about the state of the process surrounding this product, the designer, the Indian Council of Medical Research, did not answer.

Finally, the latest announcement that has generated a lot of media attention in March reported very encouraging results from a male pill project being tested on mice.

But these data, which should in any case be handled with care pending human trials promised before the end of the year, have so far not led to publication in a scientific journal, the only means of independently assessing its seriousness. judge.

However, the researchers who didn’t provide a release schedule say they plan to bring it to market within five years. This calendar is just “not realistic”says biologist Michael Skinner, who is also working on a male birth control project.

To continue, discover “Birth control”a strip that examines heated briefs, vasectomy, and hormonal injections.


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