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Male contraceptive gel shows rapid results

Lowering sperm count illustration.
image: ©filo | iStock

A male contraceptive gel applied to the shoulders has shown to be faster-acting than previous methods, according to new research

This gel, currently in trials, could revolutionise male birth control by providing a safe and effective alternative to traditional options.

Quicker results than previous male contraception

The study, conducted by the Contraceptive Development Programme at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), revealed that the gel lowers sperm count to effective contraceptive levels within an average of eight weeks.

This is significantly quicker than the nine to 15 weeks typically required for male contraceptive injections to take effect.

The trial involved 222 men who applied 5ml of the gel, approximately a teaspoon, on each shoulder blade daily. The gel combines two hormones: testosterone and a synthetic hormone called Nestorone, Sky reported.

While testosterone alone reduces sperm count, the addition of Nestorone speeds up the process and allows for lower testosterone doses.

Practical and efficient male contraception

At the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Boston, researchers presented findings showing that 86 per cent of participants reached the target sperm count of one million or fewer sperm per millilitre of semen by the 15th week of the study. For the majority, sperm production was suppressed in less than eight weeks, the Daily mail reported.

The gel’s rapid action and ease of use could make it a more appealing option for men. Prior studies of male hormonal contraceptives delivered via injections showed slower results, with sperm suppression taking between nine and 15 weeks on average.

In addition to its effectiveness, the gel’s safety and acceptability are being closely monitored. Researchers are also examining how long it takes for sperm counts to return to normal after stopping the gel, which is crucial for those considering future fertility.

A British study with a similar gel formulation found that men could reliably remember to apply the gel daily, alleviating concerns about commitment.

Ninety per cent of participants used the gel consistently for a year. This promising development is part of a broader effort to expand male contraceptive options. As the gel moves through further testing phases, its potential to offer a quick, reliable, and reversible method of birth control represents a significant advance in reproductive health.

Researchers aim to confirm the gel’s long-term safety, effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, and overall user acceptability.

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