50 years ago, contraception options focused on women

Excerpt from the April 15, 1967 issue of Science News


NONE SHALL PASS  Men’s birth control options haven’t changed much in 50 years. One potential option on the horizon is a gel injection that blocks sperm from traveling through the vas deferens, a duct in the male reproductive system.  

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Next in birth control

The pill is a sledgehammer approach to contraception…. A second-generation of [drugs] is being designed to do the job without upsetting a woman’s normal cycle of ovulation and menstruation…. A contraceptive administered to the man can be given only for a short time without actually affecting the development of sperm … and, therefore, is not being considered for actual clinical use. —Science News, April 15, 1967


Contraceptives have come a long way since 1967. Women can choose low-dose pills, hormonal rings, implants and intrauterine devices — effective methods that can be less disruptive to normal menstrual cycles. Men have far fewer options, but that may eventually change. A long-acting gel injected into 16 adult male rhesus monkeys’ reproductive tracts completely prevented pregnancy in their partners over one to two breeding periods. The gel works like a vasectomy but is less invasive and can be reversed more easily, researchers report February 7 in Basic and Clinical Andrology.

Cassie Martin is a deputy managing editor. She has a bachelor's degree in molecular genetics from Michigan State University and a master's degree in science journalism from Boston University.

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