Mendenhall: Make Men’s Birth Control More Accessible

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Sydney Stam

(Design by Sydney Stam | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Addison Mendenhall, Opinion Writer

 

Birth control has been a sensitive subject in the media over the last several months. Given the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, it’s more important than ever to educate ourselves about our contraceptive options.

Female birth control accounts for the vast majority of contraceptives we have access to. These include IUDs, hormonal implants and contraceptive pills which have a wide range of side effects, many that are adverse and can outweigh the benefits.

Male birth control methods are beginning to gain traction. In the last few years, researchers have launched many studies to expand the variety of options men have access to. A few male contraceptive pills remain in the early stages of testing, but don’t look very promising due to potential side effects. However, this is unfair to women that endure negative side effects for birth control regardless. We must push for different varieties of male birth control if we want to protect ourselves in a post-Roe future.

Men’s Current Options

Men currently have two main options for birth control — vasectomies and condoms.

Vasectomies are one of the best methods of birth control, as they are nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Vasectomies can usually get reversed, although several factors can potentially affect fertility afterwards. Since some run this risk, it’s not recommended to have a vasectomy as a form of temporary birth control.

Condoms have a lower pregnancy prevention rate, at about 85%. Condoms are another hot topic as some men just don’t believe in wearing them. Only 19% of men reported using a condom every time they had sex over a 12-month span. Considering these drawbacks, there should be other methods of male birth control by now.

We should be just as invested in finding more male birth control options as we are for women. Clinical trials for a two-hormone injection male contraceptive took place in 2016. However, the trials ended because the side effects, which included acne, mood swings and mental health decline, were deemed too negative to continue. included  But these side effects are shockingly similar to the side effects women who take birth control have reported for many years.

Female Birth Control

The first oral contraceptive was approved by the FDA in 1960. Since then, other variations of birth control have been approved, such as the IUD in 1968, but the pill remains the most common contraceptive method outside female sterilization. Side effects of hormonal birth control include acne, spotting, nausea, weight gain/fluctuation, mood swings, depression, anxiety, missed periods and decreased libido. More serious side effects include blood clots, high blood pressure and liver tumors, although these are certainly more rare. 

While men’s birth control causes some of these same side effects, the effects women experience are worse. Birth control interferes with our menstrual cycles, which can cause consistent bleeding for months, or the exact opposite, known as amenorrhea. Amenorrhea can cause infertility, problems with pregnancy and even miscarriages. Most women don’t know what side effects they may experience ahead of time.

After two years on birth control, I experienced constant nausea and bleeding while my mental health significantly worsened. Because of a birth control implant, I have low hormone levels and mild PCOS. These negative side effects are widely acknowledged but aren’t taken seriously. It’s frustrating to see that when men raise concerns, they are addressed. But when women report the same things, they are dismissed as unimportant.

Double Standard of Pregnancy Prevention

Unfortunately, general perception dictates that it is only a woman’s job to prevent herself from pregnancy. According to sociologist Katrina Kimport, “… people use contraception in order to have sex, they do not have sex in order to use contraception.” We all know how reproduction works, and how it takes two partners (not just one). From this standpoint, it’s not fair that the burden of pregnancy prevention mainly falls on those that can conceive. Men must become more involved. Increasing the variety of birth control for men can provide even just a small amount of relief and help share the responsibility that women face mainly by themselves. Trials for men’s birth control must resume and continue for this to happen.

The future of women’s birth control is very precarious, and we can’t predict what will happen next. Lawmakers are making changes that will likely affect contraception in the near future, so we must prepare ahead of time. By involving men more in the contraceptive dialogue and pushing for more kinds of viable male contraception, responsibility can be more equally shared among partners.

 

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@addsmendenhall