Men’s Health

CON­TRA­CEP­TION IN MEN EREC­TILE DYS­FUNC­TION

Doctor's Plaza Health Magazine - - Contents - Anna Rhodes

Ap­par­ently women can have such ail­ments as de­pres­sion and acne thrust upon them for the greater good of pre­vent­ing an un­wanted preg­nancy, but the same level of dis­com­fort can­not be ex­pected of men.

The find­ing that the lat­est ver­sion of the in­jected male con­tra­cep­tive is now very ef­fec­tive is fan­tas­tic news. In a trial of 320 men, re­searchers found that, over a oneyear pe­riod, it was 96 per cent ef­fec­tive in pre­vent­ing preg­nancy. A spokesper­son for the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion said: “The study found it is pos­si­ble to have a hor­monal con­tra­cep­tive for men that re­duces the risk of un­planned preg­nan­cies in the part­ners of men who use it.”

But the trial of the drug has al­ready been halted – be­cause just 20 of the men (out of 320, don’t for­get) found the side ef­fects of the in­jec­tion in­tol­er­a­ble and it was de­cided that more re­search needed to be done to try and coun­ter­act them. Those side ef­fects in­cluded de­pres­sion, mus­cle pain, mood swings, acne and changes to the li­bido.

Do any of those side ef­fects sound fa­mil­iar? Oh yes, they’re the mi­nor side ef­fects of the com­bined pill, used by 48 per cent of women aged 16 to 19, 64 per cent of women aged be­tween 20 and 24 and a ma­jor­ity (55 per cent) of those aged be­tween 25 and 29. How sad for these poor men – they couldn’t han­dle the side ef­fects that so many women have to deal with ev­ery day just to avoid an un­wanted preg­nancy.

Women have had to bear the re­spon­si­bil­ity of con­tra­cep­tion since the pill was first launched in 1962 – and all of the side ef­fects that go along with it.

When it comes to con­tra­cep­tion, medicine is clearly bi­ased to­wards men. Women can have such ail­ments as de­pres­sion and acne thrust upon them for the greater good of pre­vent­ing an un­wanted preg­nancy, but the same level of dis­com­fort can­not be ex­pected of men. Re­searchers are now go­ing to spend mil­lions try­ing to al­ter this med­i­ca­tion so that its side ef­fects are less­ened.

Only 20 of the men sur­veyed said that they couldn’t han­dle the side ef­fects – more than 75 per cent said they would hap­pily use the con­tra­cep­tion. Be­cause 20 men weren’t happy, the en­tire trial has been halted. Let’s re­view this in con­text. One of the most dan­ger­ous risks to women of tak­ing the com­bined pill is the in­creased risk of deep vein throm­bo­sis (DVT), which can be fa­tal. It af­fects two in 10,000 women. Young women’s lives have been cut short be­cause they were tak­ing the pill. The ad­vice from the reg­u­la­tory agency? “The ben­e­fits out­weigh the risks.”

There is also an in­creased risk of breast cancer: one in eight women get breast cancer, and it is re­spon­si­ble for 31 deaths in Bri­tain ev­ery day. Then there’s the higher chance of get­ting cer­vi­cal cancer or hav­ing a stroke, not to men­tion mood swings, cramps, sore breasts, headaches, mi­graines, weight gain, heavy and painful pe­ri­ods, no pe­ri­ods at all, bleed­ing ev­ery sin­gle day (known spot­ting) – do I need to go on?

The risks of the com­bined pill are nu­mer­ous, and tak­ing it is not a pleas­ant thing. But women have taken this bur­den on for more than 50 years to al­low their re­la­tion­ships to de­velop with­out the risk of preg­nancy. It is of­fen­sive and in­con­sid­er­ate that re­searchers are halt­ing a ma­jor trial of a male con­tra­cep­tion be­cause of a few mi­nor – yes, they are mi­nor, and if you’re a woman com­plain­ing about them, that’s what your GP will most cer­tainly tell you – side ef­fects.

I don’t blame the men who dropped out of the trial for do­ing so. I blame the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment for treat­ing women like cat­tle who can deal with the risk of cancer and blood clots to avoid the world be­ing pop­u­lated by un­wanted ba­bies, yet aren’t will­ing to let men suf­fer even a slight headache to the same end. For women, the al­ter­na­tives to the com­bined pill are not much bet­ter. The mini pill doesn’t pro­vide as much of a risk, as it isn’t jam­packed full of oe­stro­gen, yet you can end up with ir­reg­u­lar bleed­ing or no pe­ri­ods at all – un­nerv­ing for many, es­pe­cially when you’re try­ing to avoid an un­planned preg­nancy. The depo in­jec­tion is renowned for ir­reg­u­lar bleed­ing – some peo­ple bleed ev­ery sin­gle day on it – and it can­not be re­versed. If its side ef­fects are in­tol­er­a­ble, you have to sit it out for three months. The im­plant is also renowned for its dis­rup­tion to the men­strual cy­cle – plus, you have to have a stick jammed in your arm. Let’s not even start on the coil (a bit of cop­per shoved into your uterus through your vagina and cervix with­out any pain relief, any­one?).

It’s enough to make you con­sider that re­main­ing celi­bate – or even hav­ing a child – could be vi­able op­tions.

The halt­ing of the male con­tra­cep­tive trial is not jus­ti­fied. Un­less the re­searchers pro­duce ev­i­dence that this in­jec­tion in­creases the risk of death, cancer – or any side ef­fect with a dis­pro­por­tion­ately higher risk than the forms of con­tra­cep­tion bil­lions of women are al­ready us­ing – they are court­ing con­tro­versy. I’ve never been of the school of thought that sci­ence is bi­ased against women. Usu­ally, I’m the one de­fend­ing it. But this is tak­ing the bis­cuit. Women make up half the pop­u­la­tion in this world, and half the part­ner­ship re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery un­planned child – and it’s time some­one gave us a break when it comes to con­tra­cep­tion.

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