Life-changing male birth control nixed after men can't handle same side effects women do

Life-changing male birth control nixed after men can't handle same side effects women do

CultureNovember 01, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

For years, men have been demanding a form of hormonal male birth control — you know, so Brad could finally splooge in Ashely's special place without having his penis strangled by any of those god dang condom-things.

Yet ironically, as soon as men got the birth control option they'd asked for, they no longer want it.

The reason? It makes them feel too much like women.

See, although an actual male birth control injection has been developed and is 96 percent effective at preventing pregnancy by reducing sperm count, a pivotal study on the contraceptive has been halted due to a small number of men reporting "intolerable" side effects like mood swings, changes to libido and acne.

... Oh wait, you mean the exact same side effects women have been facing every day since the impetus of hormonal contraception?

Yeah. Those.

To understand the insanity of this situation, let's look at some of the common side effects women have to face from popular versions of female birth control:

Minastrin 24 FE: a low-hormone birth control pill: Headaches, nausea, menstrual cramps, yeast infections, breast tenderness, acne, mood swings, and weight gain.

NuvaRing: a hormonal vaginal ring: Vaginal-tissue irritation, headaches, mood changes, nausea and vomiting, weight gain, breast pain, painful menstruation, abdominal pain, acne, and decreased libido.

IUD: pelvic or abdominal pain, ovarian cysts, headaches and migraines, acne, depressed mood, “heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding.”

All of these contraceptives have been approved by the FDA for female use, yet their side effects are just as bad, if not worse than the injectable male contraceptive in question. No one ended studies on these things; no one said, "Oh man! Depression! Acne! This shit is too dangerous for women." They just let the research flow, side effects ignored. Perhaps that's why one study found that nearly 40 percent of women stop taking the pill within a year of starting — the side effects are just too much to handle. 

The male birth control study, which was published last week in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that of the 266 men who used the contraceptive, only four men reported accidental pregnancies. This is a success rate similar to female hormonal birth control; one so high you'd at least think it would entice men to take some contraceptive responsibility.

Nope!

While the study took place between 2008 and 2012, researchers had to stop enrolling new participants back in 2011 because of the negative side effects men were reporting. Twenty couples even dropped out of the study, citing things like acne, altered libido, pain at the injection side, muscle pain, depression and mood disorders as reasons why they could simply go on no longer. In other words, they didn't want to deal with the same shit women have to.

Seventeen percent of the men said they experienced "emotional disorders" during the study, the Journal-Constitution reported, but most considered the symptoms to be relatively mild. By contrast, almost twice that many women who take oral birth control pills experience actual depression so severe they need medication for it.

And with 99 percent of sexually active women reporting using birth control at some point in their lives, you can be sure that, at any given time, most of the women you see walking around, doing their jobs, talking to friends, and navigating their relationships are either currently, or have in the past, had to deal with the same side effects men refuse to.

"The difference just struck me," Elizabeth Lloyd, an Indiana University biology professor who is unaffiliated with the study, told CNN. "Twenty percent of women who take birth control experience depression. They terminated this study once it showed 3 percent depression for the men."

However, despite a few men not being able to handle the same shit 99 percent of women have had to handle, 75 percent of the study participants reported being willing to use the birth control injection method of contraception at the conclusion of the trial. That's a lot of men who are down ... too many to warrant the shut-down of the study if you ask us.

Still, despite the relatively high approval rating, Mario Philip R. Festin, one of the study's authors, said more research was needed.

"Although the injections were effective in reducing the rate of pregnancy, the combination of hormones needs to be studied more to consider a good balance between efficacy and safety," he said.

... Right. So that men don't have to deal with the same mood swings, libido changes and acne that women do.

Yet, while it's all too easy to see the inherent gender bias in this study, we'd like to posit our own explanation for why it's possible that men weren't able to stomach the side effects of the injection, while women willingly subject themselves to them. It's not scientifically proven or anything, but ... think about it: women have more avenues to deal with emotional issues like mood swings and changes in mental health because we deal with monthly fluctuations of these things. Most of us are used to feeling a little out of control of our emotions during menstruation, but since we know that these changes are often impermanent, they don't hit us as hard. We're also socialized to talk to each other and to debrief about how we're feeling to people we trust, giving us the proven ability to process our emotions more efficiently than men.

Not all men have difficulty addressing their emotions, of course — many do it just fine — but it's possible that once the men in these studies began to feel theirs were out of control, they didn't have same conditioning to deal with them that most women do. Maybe they're not accustomed to feeling things so much, and maybe they feel those changes are more serious and permanent than they really are.

We guess no one will really know for sure now.

In the meantime, what's needed is a closer examination of how men's physical and mental well-being is prioritized over women's, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry where more in-depth attention to how men and women handle emotional and physical distress could theoretically aid the development of better gender-specific drugs.

But until we have those things ... the men in the study really just sound like women complaining their balls hurt.