The future of male contraception: a fertile ground

Transl Androl Urol. 2018 May;7(Suppl 2):S220-S235. doi: 10.21037/tau.2018.03.23.


The continued and rapid expansion of the Earth's population mandates the need for safe and effective measures of contraception. While a plethora of options exist for women, methods of contraception for the male partner are limited to condoms and vasectomy. The sequela of this discrepancy has led to the family planning burden falling disproportionately on the female partner. For the past several decades, extensive research has been undertaken exploring the feasibility of hormonal male contraception. This proposed method of contraception has focused on suppressing spermatogenesis by exploiting the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Beginning with proof of concept studies in the early nineties, administration of testosterone in healthy male subjects has been shown to be an efficacious method of inducing sterility. Owing to ethnic differences in spermatogenesis suppression and the comparatively low rate of azoospermia in Caucasian men with androgen-only regimens, investigators have explored the addition of progestins to further enhance the efficacy of hormonal contraception. Though studies have revealed promise with androgen-progestin regimens, the lack of long-term studies has precluded the development of a marketable product. Recently, more research has been directed towards identifying non-hormonal alternatives to male contraception. These non-hormonal options have ranged from the development of devices facilitating reversible occlusion of the vas deferens lumen to medications disrupting various pathways in the process of spermatogenesis. Underlying the development of hormonal and non-hormonal strategies is the shared enthusiasm men and women have towards these male directed methods. The willingness of couples to pursue these alternatives combined with the global need to reduce the psychological and socioeconomic implications of unintended pregnancy ensures that research will continue to bring this goal to fruition.

Keywords: Male hormonal contraception; androgen-progestin combination therapy; azoospermia; non-hormonal contraception; pregnancy rate; vas deferens occlusion.

Publication types

  • Review