Birth Control For Men

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Male Birth Control Options

When you think about birth control , your mind probably goes to the pill for women. Researchers are working on one for men, too, but it’s not a reality yet. Still, men have several options to help avoid an unplanned pregnancy .

Why consider male contraceptives ? For one thing, the pill isn’t foolproof. Or your partner may not be able to take the pill because of side effects. Or they may not use any forms of birth control .

Women also tend to bear most of the responsibility and cost of birth control , and female methods tend to be more expensive than those for men. If you want to play a more equal role, talk with your partner about the best way to do so.

Condoms

Condoms can work up to 98% of the time to block conception . They also protect you from sexually transmitted diseases , or STDs , like herpes and chlamydia . That’s not true of any other method.

But if you don’t wear condoms the right way every time you have sex, your chances for an accidental pregnancy can be surprisingly high. Some estimates put it at nearly 1 in 5.

To make sure your condom gets the job done, you should:

Use only latex or polyurethane condoms that you’ve kept in a cool and dry place. Condoms made with lambskin or different materials may not protect against HIV and other viruses.

Avoid carrying condoms in your wallet, where heat and friction could damage them.

Check the expiration date on the wrapper to be sure the condom isn’t too old. Use lubricants that are water- or silicone-based. They’re less likely to break the condom than those with oil. It’s also important to follow these steps when you put on and take off a condom:

1. Place the condom on the head of your hard penis . Pinch out any air that may be trapped in the tip, and leave a little space there for your semen .

2. Unroll the condom all the way to the base of your penis .

3. If you’re uncircumcised, pull back your foreskin before you slide down the condom.

4. When you finish intercourse, grab the base of your penis and hold the condom in place while you pull out.

5. Throw away the condom.

Spermicide

Spermicide is a chemical that prevents pregnancy by killing sperm so they can’t fertilize an egg. The only spermicide available in the U.S. is nonoxynol-9 (N-9). You can get it as a foam, jelly, tablet, cream, suppository, or dissolvable film. You can use spermicide by itself or combine it with other methods.

It’s best to use the chemical with some devices designed to block sperm from fertilizing an egg, such as cervical caps and shields and also condoms.

Spermicide does not help prevent the transmission of STDs.

Spermicide condoms: These are regular condoms coated with N-9, which can also act as a lubricant. They are an effective form of birth control but don’t have any benefit over condoms without spermicide. There’s no evidence that spermicides cause birth defects, and spermicide condoms are safe to use when you’re pregnant.

There are some downsides to this type of condom, however. Spermicide is known to lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) in some women. And they may have a funny taste if you’re having oral sex.

Because spermicide condoms often cost more, expire quicker, and have potential for irritation, other types of condoms, such as those lubricated with silicone, are often a better choice. If you’re unsure, talk with your doctor.

How to use spermicide: Different types of spermicide may require different steps and timing, which is why you need to follow the directions on the package carefully. In general, most types tell you to:

  • Insert the spermicide deep into the vagina.
  • Wait 10-15 minutes before you have sex.
  • Don’t wait any longer than 30-60 minutes to have sex.
  • Leave it in for at least 6 hours after sex.

Spermicide effectiveness: Although you can use spermicide alone, it works better when you combine it with a condom or diaphragm. Spermicide used alone is about 70% to 80% effective.

Spermicide condoms prevent pregnancy 87% of the time with typical use. And when used perfectly (wearing them properly, putting them on before sex, storing them properly in a cool, dry place, etc.), they work 98% of the time.

Vasectomy

Vasectomy is also known as “male sterilization.” A surgeon cuts and seals off the tubes that your sperm pass through to reach your testicles. It’s the most effective birth control option for men. Only about 15 out of 10,000 couples get pregnant in the year after a man has the surgery.

After a vasectomy, it takes about 3 months for your semen to be sperm-free.

Benefits:

  • It’s simpler, cheaper, and works better than female sterilization.
  • You can go home the same day of the surgery.
  • It doesn’t change the way sex or ejaculation feels for you or your partner.
  • Your semen doesn’t look, smell, or feel any different.

Drawbacks:

  • Vasectomy is pretty much permanent. You’ll likely never be able to have kids again. You can try to undo your vasectomy with another surgery, but this “reversal” doesn’t always work.
  • You’ll still need to wear a condom to protect against STDs .
  • As with any surgery, you have a small chance of swelling, bleeding, infections, and other complications. But they’re rare and usually not serious.

Outercourse

This term includes all the different kinds of sex or foreplay that don’t involve your penis entering your partner’s vagina . Outercourse can mean:

  • Kissing
  • Fondling
  • Masturbation
  • Dry humping (a.k.a. grinding)
  • Oral or anal sex

As long as you keep your penis and semen away from your partner’s vaginal area, conception can’t happen. But the obvious downside is that you can’t have vaginal sex. Also, if you’re having oral or anal sex, you can still get an STD.

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Withdrawal (Pulling Out)

It’s called “coitus interruptus” in Latin. Withdrawal is one of the oldest and simplest forms of birth control, but one of the least effective. You pull your penis out of the vagina before you ejaculate.

The pull-out method has a few things going for it. It has no side effects and it costs nothing. And going bare doesn’t interfere with your sexual sensations.

But the method works only if you do it right. That means you need to pull out soon enough so no semen gets on or inside your partner’s vagina. You have to time it right and be quick enough. That can be hard to do, especially if you’re young and haven’t had much sex.

That’s why the pull-out method alone works just 78% of the time. So in a given year, 22 out of 100 couples who rely on it for birth control will end up with a pregnancy.

And the withdrawal method doesn’t protect you from STDs.

Show Sources

AIDS : “Rectal use of nonoxynol-9 among men who have sex with men.”

AMA Journal of Ethics : “Contraceptive Justice: Why We Need a Male Pill.”

Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: “Outercourse.”

CDC: “Effectiveness of Family Planning Methods,” “Male Condom Use,” “Coitus Interruptus (Withdrawal),” “Nonoxynol-9 Spermicide Contraception Use — United States, 1999,” “Condom Effectiveness.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Vasectomy (Sterilization): Risks / Benefits.”

Family Planning Services of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

FDA: “Condoms and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”

Federal Register : “Over-the-counter vaginal contraceptive and spermicide drug products containing nonoxynol 9; required labeling. Final rule.”

K4Health: “Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers.”

Mayo Clinic: “Spermicide,” “Vasectomy,” “Withdrawal method (coitus interruptus.)”

Mount Sinai: “You Asked It: Does Spermicide Work?”

National Health Service (UK): “Your contraception guide,” “Condoms.”

National Institutes of Health: “Vasectomy.”

Substance Abuse : “Teaching Condom Use Skills: Practice is Superior to Observation.”

The Center for Young Women’s Health: “Birth Control Pills: All Guides.”

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism : “Effects of 28 Days of Oral Dimethandrolone Undecanoate in Healthy Men: A Prototype Male Pill.”

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Spermicide.”

University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics: “Vasectomy reversals: frequently asked questions.”

World Health Organization: “Nonoxynol-9 ineffective in preventing HIV infection.”

Male Birth Control Options

Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.

Updated on December 12, 2021

Matthew Wosnitzer, MD, is board-certified in urology. He is an attending physician at Yale New Haven Health System, Northeast Medical Group and teaches at the Frank Netter School of Medicine.

A doctor talking to a couple

Right now, with the exception of abstinence and withdrawal, there are only two available male birth control options—condoms and vasectomy. Both of these birth control methods, though, offer men different choices:

  • Condoms: There are many types of condoms to choose from. Besides different sizes, shapes, and textures, you can choose condoms made from latex, polyurethane, polyisoprene, and lambskin.
  • Vasectomy: This is a permanent option for male birth control. You can choose between a traditional vasectomy or a no-scalpel (keyhole) vasectomy. Both of these are simple, effective, and relatively low-cost procedures.

Male Birth Control Shot

One male birth control shot has been showing very promising results for decades: RISUG. RISUG, which stands for reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance, is non-hormonal, minimally invasive, reversible, and is effective for up to 10 years.   It’s like having a vasectomy—without the permanent snip.

Current clinical studies show that the male birth control shot has been shown to be 99% effective—this is about the same rate as female hormonal birth control methods.

As of 2019, RISUG was in the late stages of clinical testing in India and had been patented in India, China, and the United States. 

In the United States, Vasalgel, which is a contraceptive method based on RISUG, is the male birth control option furthest along in clinical trials and is closest to be the first new U.S. option marketed for men. Vasalgel is currently undergoing animal and safety trials, but human clinical trials have not yet started.

How RISUG Works

After receiving a local anesthetic, RISUG uses a polymer gel that’s injected into the vas deferens (two tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the penis). This positively charged gel attaches to the inner walls of the vas deferens.

When negatively charged sperm flow through the vas deferens, the gel damages their heads and tails, rendering them infertile.

The good news is that these male birth control injections are also completely reversible. All it takes is a simple injection of water and baking soda to dissolve and flush the gel out of the vas deferens. Also, the shot appears to have no side effects. 

Methods In Development

There are several male birth control methods that are currently in varying stages of development.

Male Hormonal Contraception

The United Nations World Health Organization, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Sydney have all conducted trials to study the effects of weekly testosterone injections on sperm production.

The use of steroid hormones (called androgens) has been shown to lower sperm count without any change in libido, ability to get an erection, and achievement of orgasm. The main disadvantage of this method is that it can take anywhere from three to four months to become effective.

Hormonal male birth control is about 95% effective, has few side effects, and is reversible. Male hormonal contraceptives involve testosterone which works by reducing luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) from the pituitary. This significantly reduces sperm production in the testis.

Another study investigated combining the use of the birth control implant (Nexplanon) with injectable testosterone decanoate. Men received testosterone injections every 4-6 weeks. The results showed that this combined hormonal method signif icantly lowered sperm count. Plus, the lowered sperm count lasted for up to one year.

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Gendarussa

This is a non-hormonal male birth control pill that has been offered through clinical trials in Indonesia since the 1990s. This potential herbal male contraceptive comes from the Justicia gendarussa plant. Similar to the pill, this male birth control alternative appears to be 99% effective when used correctly. 

It works by interfering with an enzyme in the sperm’s head—this weakens the sperm’s ability to penetrate the egg. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find published data on gendarussa’s use as a male contraceptive, so it is hard to predict the future of this method.

Epididymal Protease Inhibitor (Eppin)

Eppin Pharma Inc. is trying to develop a non-hormonal male birth control pill. They claim that it is an effective, reversible, and short term male birth control option.

This male contraceptive works by binding to the protein on the sperm’s surface—preventing sperm from swimming towards the egg. Preclinical animal studies have been conducted by the O’Rand Laboratory at the University of North Carolina and show promising results. 

Clean Sheets Pill

This is a fast-acting male birth control method currently in the early stages of development in London. This contraceptive allows a man to orgasm without ejaculating.

The Clean Sheets Pill has the added potential to significantly lower male-to-partner transmission of HIV/AIDS. It is called the Clean Sheets Pill because it stops semen from being released.

This contraceptive pill is taken two to three hours prior to sex and lasts for 16-24 hours.   The development of this male birth control option may be stalled due to funding issues. More research is needed before this potential male birth control pill could begin the long FDA research, testing, and approval process.

Support for Male Birth Control

Nearly 65% of U.S. women ages 15 to 49 use some form of birth control.   Many women also feel like the responsibility to use birth control rests mainly on them. But male birth control research is expensive, and many developers are stopping their attempts to create additional male birth control options because of the costs.

The willingness of men to use a new type of male birth control varies widely between population groups.

A 2019 study led by the Male Contraceptive Initiative concluded that there are approximately 17 million sexually active men ages 18-44 years looking for new forms of contraception that fit their lifestyle and relationship.   Of these 17 million men, 8.1 million are “very likely” to use new male methods, and 5.6 million are “somewhat likely” to do so.

Critics of male birth control point to how often men refuse and complain about wearing condoms. They say that if men are put off by the simple act of having to roll on a condom, then these same men would most likely also object to having an injection in their scrotum.

In the end, though, more options are always good. And most women will probably not object to finally be able to unload some of the burden of contraception use on men.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a birth control shot for men?

Yes, but it is not yet available in the United States. Reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance (RISUG) is a non-hormonal, minimally invasive procedure that is reversible. The drug is currently being studied in clinical trials. In the U.S., RISUG was patented under the brand name Vasalgel.

How does the male birth control shot work?

The male birth control shot Vasalgel blocks the flow of sperm from the body, thus preventing pregnancy. The shot is a gel injected into the vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testes to the penis. The gel binds itself to the walls of the vas deferens and damages the sperm, rendering them infertile. Vasalgel is not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration, so it’s not available in the United States.

How long does the male birth control shot last?

The male birth control shot, also known as RISUG and Vasalgel, lasts up to 10 years. It can also be reversed at any time with another injection.

How is the male birth control shot reversed?

Vasalgel works by injecting a polymer into the vas deferens, which causes sperm to be infertile. A polymer-dissolving agent can be injected into the vas deferens to reverse the procedure and restore fertility.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Sharma RS, Mathur AK, Singh R, et al. Safety & efficacy of an intravasal, one-time injectable & non-hormonal male contraceptive (RISUG): A clinical experience. Indian J Med Res. 2019;150(1):81-86. doi:10.4103/ijmr.IJMR_635_18
  2. Lohiya NK, Alam I, Hussain M, Khan SR, Ansari AS. RISUG: an intravasal injectable male contraceptive. Indian J Med Res. 2014;140 Suppl:S63-S72.
  3. Amory JK. Male contraception. Fertil Steril. 2016;106(6):1303-1309. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.08.036
  4. Brady BM, Amory JK, Perheentupa A, et al. A multicentre study investigating subcutaneous etonogestrel implants with injectable testosterone decanoate as a potential long-acting male contraceptive. Human Reproduction. 2006;21(1):285-294. doi:10.1093/humrep/dei300
  5. Prajogo BEW, Guliet D, Queiroz FE, et al. Isolation of male antifertility compound in n-butanol fraction of Justicia gendarussa Burm. F. leaves. Folia Medica Indonesiana. 2009;45(1):28.
  6. O’Rand MG, Widgren EE, Hamil KG, Silva EJ, Richardson RT. Functional studies of eppin. Biochem Soc Trans. 2011;39(5):1447-1449. doi:10.1042/BST0391447
  7. Parsemus Foundation. Contraception with protection from HIV.
  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current contraceptive status among women aged 15–49: United States, 2015–2017. NCHS Data Brief No. 327, December 2018.
  9. Male Contraceptive Initiative. Interest among U.S. men for new male contraceptive options. 2019.

Additional Reading

  • Amory JK, Page ST, Bremner WJ. Drug insight: Recent advances in male hormonal contraception. Nat Clin Pract Endocrinol Metab. 2006;2(1):32-41. doi:10.1038/ncpendmet0069
  • Brady BM, Amory JK, Perheentupa A, et al. A multicentre study investigating subcutaneous etonogestrel implants with injectable testosterone decanoate as a potential long-acting male contraceptive. Hum Reprod. 2006;21(1):285-294. doi:10.1093/humrep/dei300
  • Chaudhury K, Bhattacharyya AK, Guha SK. Studies on the membrane integrity of human sperm treated with a new injectable male contraceptive. Hum Reprod. 2004;19(8):1826-1830. doi:10.1093/humrep/deh332
  • Friedman M, Nickels L, Sokal D, et al. Interest Among U.S. Men for New Male Contraceptive Options: Consumer Research Study. Durham, NC: Male Contraceptive Initiative; 2019.

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.

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