SA contraception breakthrough: this could be 'The Pill' for men

By Pieter van Zyl
20 July 2016

According to scientists, it's just as effective as a vasectomy.

Usually it’s the woman’s responsibility to make sure that she takes her pill regularly or goes for her injection or gets a device implanted to make sure that there isn’t a bun in the oven.

But according to an announcement by the Stellenbosch Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences a gel for men, just as effective as a vasectomy, is expected to be available in just over two years.

A vasectomy is a simple procedure in which the two tubes, called the vas deferens, are clamped and cut so that sperm can no longer get into the semen when it is ejaculated.

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But this new gel method is totally reversible and there are very little or no side-effects for the man. With a vasectomy sperm needs to be saved at a sperm bank in case a man would like to have children again. With this you simply need to remove the gel.

Vasectomies can also result in bruising, bleeding or long-term complications such as infection or post-vasectomy syndrome, although this only happens in very few cases.

“If successful, this will drastically change the field of contraception,” said Stellenbosch University urologist, Dr Amir Zarrabi. He added that, “it will give couples a lot of flexibility.

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With Vasagel, which is currently being tested in America, no operation is needed. Like with a vasectomy the flow of sperm from the testicles to the penis is cut off but instead of cutting the duct which carries the sperm the gel simply blocks the sperm and allows the other fluids though.

When the time comes for children the gel can be washed out with an injection containing a sodium bicarbonate solution.

The study is in its third year and it looks as if the gel stays active for as long as it’s in the tube. The injection will be done in the shaft of the penis. The retail cost of the product hasn’t been established, but the American Parsemus Foundation, the non-governmental organisation that’s carrying out the tests with the gel, is determined to keep the cost as low as possible.

Initially it’ll only be available in the private sector and the biggest expense will be the doctor’s fees, as doctors will need special training in the procedure.

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Studies have found that a contraceptive pill which reduces the testosterone levels in the testicles so that sperm isn’t produced, had too many side effect, Dr Zarrabi says.

One of the effects is that the testosterone levels in the blood need to be increased artificially, which leads to aggression, depression, fatigue, low libido, hypertensions and high cholesterol levels.

That’s why the idea of a male contraceptive pill was abandoned a few years ago, he says.

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