Why male contraception?
Medical science continues to astound, year after year. Innovative procedures and breakthrough research such as genome sequencing have changed how we approach medicine, yielding advances in many crucial areas of study. However, the field of male contraception has not had the necessary support to advance at the same rapid pace displayed by other fields. Condoms are by far the most commonly used male contraceptives, but they are inelegant, and contain usability barriers that make them an imperfect solution (Darroch, 2013). The development of a range of contraceptives that meet the needs of all users should be a priority for those that guide and shape healthcare, and moreover, creating contraceptives that apply to both males and females encourages ownership and education regarding reproductive health.
When considering the global impact, a staggeringly large percentage of global pregnancies (40%) are unintended (Sedgh, 2014). This is in part due to the worldwide variation of access to healthcare and contraception, as well as the differing needs for contraceptives that are not met by the current market. Current male contraceptives such as condoms or vasectomies limit the user in realms such as reliability, reversibility, and ease-of-use, and thus limit their effective scope. An obvious solution to this limitation is to focus on new and innovative options for male contraceptives worldwide. As a simple quality-of-life question, it is imperative that both awareness and funding focus on an issue that affects a significant portion of the world population.
Additionally, modern notions of reproductive health and family planning have placed women at the center of both discussion and controversy. This focus has largely unburdened men of the logistics, decisions, and responsibility of managing contraceptive options (Dudgeon, 2004). Creation of an effective male contraceptive will allow men to take a more equitable role in the family planning process, thereby encouraging a more thorough understanding of reproductive health (Dereuddre, 2017).
Speaking personally, contraception has been important in my own family planning. As a dual-career family, we have spent many years focusing on education and research, and we have relied on traditional contraceptive methods to focus on our priorities. These methods, however, have left us wanting for many things, including flexibility and reliability. Other users of contraception have different needs, such as reversibility, ease-of-use, efficacy, and more. At Male Contraception Initiative, we are able to identify these needs through market research, and then connect with leading investigators to encourage the development of products that meet people’s needs. This is why I choose to work towards the goals of MCI—there are better options available that only need the support of organizations like us to be successful.
There are many convincing reasons to fund and develop an effective male contraceptive. The growing world population, lack of options, and the current state of gender inequity in contraception all are valid reasons to push towards male contraception. However, even a simple quality-of-life argument demonstrates that current contraceptives do not provide the options, freedom, and versatility that are required by today’s population, and that both men and women would benefit from developments in the field. MCI looks to affect real social and scientific change with our mission statement, and together, we can make a difference.
Dr. Logan Nickels is the Director of Operations and Programs at MCI.