The “male contraceptive”

posted by: Jonathan Shaw

There’s been a lot of press in recent days talking about male contraception. Interest is in an international clinical trial has been started looking at a male contraceptive gel. Its exciting to see this as for over 50 years the contraceptive options for men have been very limited.

So what is this gel?

The gel, called NES/T, is a hormone-based treatment designed to reduce sperm production. Men apply the gel to their skin daily. It contains a combination of Nestorone (NES) + testosterone (T). The researches are also hoping the gel will work without affecting libido – an issue with previously trialed methods of hormonal male contraception. They will also monitor for other possible side effects of using these hormones. Common issues seen with similar drugs are acne, weight change and changes in mood.

I’ve heard about the “male contraceptive pill” before too…?

Hormonal pills and injections for male contraception have been trialed before. Although there’s ongoing research into a male contraceptive pill, there isn’t one available yet. Previous trials have found issues with levels of side effects and efficacy (how well it works as a contraceptive).

So what options are currently available for men?

As of writing the current options for male contraception are the male condom, and sterilisation (a vasectomy). Our service is happy to provide and advise on condom use. You can discuss and access a vasectomy via a referral from your GP practice. Condoms are great as they provide back up for if your partner’s method fails. They also protect you against STIs.

Is it helpful to think of contraception as “for men” and “for women”?

At Devon Sexual Health we always advise that contraception should be considered by both men and women. Contraception options are available for men too, although there are less of them. We are always encouraging heterosexual and bi men to think about and talk to their female partners about contraception.

Are you interested in this because you’re having issues with your current contraception?

At Devon Sexual Health we can talk through your concerns. We can review and provide a wide range of contraception to try to find the best method for you and your partner[s]. Have a look at our contraception pages and if we can help please come to see us at your local clinic.

Is there more information available on the male contraceptive gel trial?

Yes. As it is a clinical trial it has to be registered and is available online here.

Can I take part?

The study is currently recruiting so you could enquire about taking part. However you will have to travel a long way as currently the UK research sites are in Edinburgh and Manchester.

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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

If you need the combined contraceptive pill please try (if you can) to get updated measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure before calling us.

We are currently prioritising these groups for coil and implant (LARC) fits:

  • Those with vulnerabilities including but not limited to those who are: <18, attending abortion and maternity services, homeless, sex workers, victims of sexual assault, people with language barriers, drug and alcohol problems, learning disability, serious mental illness
  • Those aged <30 years

More details on LARC fittings at our service are found here

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Information is now also available to advise on sexual contact during a time of social distancing here.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info