The male birth control pill is, once again, almost here, say some headline writers. Today, Newsweek trumpets, “A male birth control pill may finally be around the corner.” The Guardian says, “Male pill could be on horizon as trials yield positive results.”
This latest round of misleadingly optimistic dispatches is based off of study results presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society. Researchers reported that a daily dose of an experimental male birth control pill called dimethandrolone undecanoate was found to alter men’s hormone levels in a fashion that could successfully suppress sperm production.
Yay for suppressing sperm! But there is reason to be skeptical: The study is as-yet unpublished, involved a small sample size of only 83 men, and was carried out over the course of just one month.
Researchers have been investigating the possibility of a male birth control pill for 60-plus years. You can blame the more-than-century-long delay in part on poor funding and canceled trials due to side-effects. There’s also the perennial speculation about whether women even trust men enough to take a daily pill, as well as some misleading reporting about men not being able to handle the side-effects of hormonal birth control. The most promising developments on the male contraception front have involved topical gels and injections.
But, despite all these hitches over the years, there has been a steady stream of headlines promising that—or tantalizingly questioning whether—this thing is almost here. A brief history of the “male pill” being on the horizon or just around the corner:
2016: “Your Boyfriend Might Be Able to Take Birth Control Pills Soon,” TeenVogue.com
2016: “Male birth control pill closer to becoming a reality,” New York Daily News
2016: “Good News: We’re Getting Closer to a Male Birth Control Pill,” Glamour.com
2015: “It’s Almost Here: ‘The Pill’ for Men,” The Daily Beast
2015: “A Male Birth Control Pill Could Soon Be A Thing, So That’s Exciting,” Elite Daily
2015: “Another Step Closer to Male Birth Control Pills,” SmithsonianMag.com
2014: “Is Male Birth Control Around the Corner?,” Mother Jones
2013: “Male Birth Control Pill In the Making,” MensFitness.com
2013: “Possible Male Birth Control Blocks Sperm,” Live Science
2012: “Male birth control pill may soon be a reality,” Reuters
2012: ”Male birth control pill could be ready for testing in a year,” New York Daily News
2011: “New Male Birth Control Concept Shows Promise,” Live Science
2010: “Scientists invent first male contraceptive pill,” The Telegraph