Male Birth Control Study Canceled After Mood-Changing Side Effects

“If anything, this may wake us up to finding out better hormonal contraceptives for women.”

Image by Judy Schmidt/CDC.

Men often like to solve problems. And just like women, most would like to avoid unplanned pregnancies. So, you’d think some of the world’s innovative scientific minds would have developed an effective male birth control pill by now.

Well, it turns out they have. But a study on it was promptly canceled after men complained about experiencing the same side effects that millions of women deal with when they use birth control.

The study, which was co-sponsored by the United Nations, tested a contraceptive shot for men that proved to be highly effective. The shot works by tricking the body into lowering testosterone levels, which results in fewer sperm being produced and lowering the overall likelihood of pregnancy.

But 20 men in the original pool of 320 participants dropped out of the study after experiencing side effects that included one documented case of depression and another case of rapid heart rate that the study’s authors say was likely unrelated to the contraception.

“It is possible that the fluctuations in the circulating progestin following bimonthly injections could have resulted in the reported or observed mood swings, such as occurs in women, whether on a hormonal contraceptive or not,” co-author Doug Colvard wrote.

Image by Anne Lowe/PublicDomainPictures.

Adding to this point, CNN reports that 1,491 “adverse events” were reported during the entire study, which included some seemingly mild cases of “muscle pain,” “acne,” and “injection site pain.” One of the other listed “adverse events” was “increased libido,” which anyone would surely tell you is just a nightmare scenario. However, best of all, CNN says nearly 39% of these side effects were completely unrelated to the birth control shots.

None of that is meant to minimize the real side effects some men in the study reported. Rather, it’s to bring up the point that these are the exact same side effects many women are expected to endure because they apparently are the only ones who can endure birth control pills or shots.

“If anything, this may wake us up to finding out better hormonal contraceptives for women, right?” Dr. Seth Cohen, a urologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, told CNN. “Because certainly, I know that a lot of young women don’t get the type of counseling that maybe they deserve when it comes to contraception. Just a [prescription] and a visit to Duane Reade is all they get, and that may not be enough.”

Is there an upside? The study found that 75% of men said they were interested in taking the shot if it ever becomes commercially available. Which could mean that in the near future, women won’t be responsible for carrying all of the responsibility when it comes to effective family planning.


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